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Leila S. al-lmad 

The Fatimid Vizierate, 



al-lmad • The Fatimid Vizierate 

5 Universitats- und Lanclesbibliothek 

6 Sachsen-Anhalt 




Klaus Schwarz 



Gerd Winkelhane 



Leila S. al-lmad 

The Fatimid Vizierate, 


Universitats- und Landesbibliothek 

te&L(4M c f 

CIP-Titelaufnahme dcr Deutschen Bibliothek 
Imad, Leila S. al-: 

The Fatimid vizierate : 969 - 1172 / Leila S. Al-Imad. - Berlin : 
Schwarz, 1990 

(Islamkundliche Untersuchungen ; Bd. 133) 

Zugl.: New York, Univ., Diss., 1985 
ISBN 3-922968-82-1 

WG: 63;64;65 DBN 90.091946.9 90.06.12 

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ISBN 3-922968-82-1 

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To the memory of my father , 
Sami Nassif al-Imad, 
and for Karl and Sami 

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The Fatimid state was the logical outcome of the 
Isma 'ill da 'wah . The da 'wah called for the formation of 
a state based on the political principle of wiping out 
injustice and oppression. As perceived by theoreticians, 
the Fatimid state was to liberate its subjects from 

political and social chaos and from moral and economic 

The Fatimids had to reconcile their government 
institutions with their political ideology. They wanted 
to create a system which would be non-discriminatory and 
which would benefit the ummah as a whole. They perceived 
their bureaucracy to be a service-oriented one. 

Although the Fatimid caliphate was the product of 
the Isma 'III da 'wah , it is argued here that the Fatimids 
practiced a form of separation of state and religion 
whereby government institutions, although parallel in 
organization to the da 'wah , functioned independently of 
it. The success of their system depended upon their 
ability to balance the two parallel institutions without 
compromising either. Thus they avoided having one 

• • • 


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institution dominate the other, which would have crippled 
their administration. 

The vizier of the Fatimids was the primary 
individual responsible for the administration; He 
asserted what one could call the "temporal sovereignty" 
of the caliph through the different branches of 
government. The vizier was supposed to see that the 
bureaucracy functioned as it should, although the bulk of 
the work fell on government personnel, such as the heads 
and scribes of the diwans , who were responsible for 
continuity in the system. The viziers were initiators of 
policies which the diwans implemented. It was those 
policies, initiated by a few select viziers (three of 
whom are discussed in detail in Chapter Three) , which had 
long-reaching effects on the system and were responsible 
for its ability to function even when many viziers did 
not last in office even one year. The Fatimid 
bureaucracy functioned, if not perfectly, without major 
interruptions, because it was stratified; lines of 
authority were clearly delimited and the scribes and 
bureau heads functioned according to principles of 
competence that helped the government to function even 
when viziers came and went in rapid succession. 

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:d A study of the vizierate would not be meaningful 

without an understanding of both the structure of the 
bureaucracy and of the Isma 'ill element (the da 'wah ) and 
its relationship to the state. For this reason, the 
first chapter of this book examines both these elements; 
and the second chapter deals with the theoretical 
foundations of the vizierate in Isma 'll 1 theology. The 
third chapter considers the broad characteristics of the 
; sixty individuals who served as viziers, from the 

conquest of Egypt to the fall of the caliphate and the 
rise of Salah al-Dln al-Ayyubi. Three outstanding 
viziers are chosen as case studies in the delicate 
interplay between Isma 'III theory and Fatimid practice, 
id A concluding chapter attempts to compare the Fatimid 

* vizierate with its Islamic contemporaries in the Abbasid 

caliphate and the Seljuk state. 


I would like to express my appreciation to the 
following libraries, which allowed me access to their 
collections: Topkapi Saray Library (Istanbul), Leiden 
University Library, Biblioth^que Nationale (Paris) , the 
British Library (London) , Jafet Library of the American 

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University of Beirut, and Firestone Library (Princeton 
University) . 

I would like to express my appreciation to all those 
who helped me realize this work. For comments, 
suggestions, and encouragement, my thanks to Richard 
Bulliet, Martin Dickson, Axel Havemann, Robert McChesney, 
and the late R.B. Winder and S.D. Goitein. 

I must also acknowledge the counsel, advice, and 
encouragement of Professor F.E. Peters during the 
research and writing of this work, which began as a 
doctoral dissertation under his supervision at New York 

Finally, my thanks to my husband, Karl Barbir, who 
set this book on computer; to my colleague, Dale Royalty, 
for his expert assistance with Word Perfect; to Dale 
Hilliard, Director of Computer Services at East Tennessee 
State University, and to his staff for their assistance 
with preparing the manuscript for publication; to Lattie 

Collins for assistance with the index; and to the late 
Klaus Schwarz for his interest and encouragement. 

Leila S. al-Imad 

Johnson City, Tennessee 

30 June 1990 

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• • 
VI 1 


Preface iii 

Chapter One The Fatimid Administrative 1 

Apparatus and Its Functions 

Chapter Two The Vizierate in Theory and 46 

in Isma'ill Theology 

Chapter Three The Vizierate in Practice: 69 

A Career-Line Analysis and 
Three Case Studies 

Chapter Four The Fatimid Administration 120 

and Vizierate: A Comparison 
and a Conclusion 

Appendix One Summary Table of Significant 163 

Data on the Fatimid Viziers 

Appendix Two Brief Biographies of the 171 

Fatimid Viziers 

Bibliography 197 

Index 225 

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As was the case with other empires, the Fatimid 
bureaucratic system was created out of necessity. With 
the expansion of Fatimid boundaries, administering the 
newly-acquired territories became an urgent task. A 
bureaucratic apparatus was created by Ibn Killis with the 
help of Jawhar al-Siqilli, the commander-in-chief of the 
caliph al-Mu'izz and the architect of the city of Cairo. 

It was conceived when the empire's headquarters were 
moved to Egypt. 

The Fatimids had started their empire in the Maghrib 
in 297/909; their first capital had been at Qayrawan in 
Tunisia. 'Ubayd Allah al-Mahdl moved it to Mahdiyyah on 
the Tunisian coast in 308/920; it remained the capital 
until the occupation of Egypt and the building of Cairo 
after 359/969. During the empire's early phases, the 
caliph's priority was to conquer more land and to spread 
the faith; this policy was changed when the caliphs moved 
to Cairo. Administrative personnel in the early years 
consisted only of those who served in the army 



organization. Jawhar al-Siqilli was the only army 
general during the early phase of the caliphate to enjoy 
the prerogatives, duties, and responsibilities of a 
vizier without being one. It was only natural that this 
was the case, because al-Siqilli was the sole ruler of 
Egypt for four years, until al-Mu'izz arrived in his 
newly-founded capital, Cairo. 1 

With the acquisition of Egypt and Syria, it became 
evident that the caliph needed to centralize his 
government and to organize it into a civilian 
bureaucracy. Al-Mu'izz realized that the only way to 
rule the vast area was with the help of strong, efficient 
administrators. Thus he named Ibn Killis as his vizier. 
Along with Jawhar, Ibn Killis was responsible for the 
establishment of the Fatimid administration which, it has 
been argued by Sha'ban and by other historians, was "the 
most centralized administration ever known in Islam, 

1 Although al-Siqilli was the ruler of Egypt for four 
years, he did not take any title or claim to the place. He 
remained a general and his rule could be construed in modern 
terminology as an interim military governorship. 

2 M.A. Sha'ban, Islamic History : a New 

I n t e r p r e tat i o n , Volume TL (Cambridge: Cambridge University 
Press, 1976), p. 199. 

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even more centralized than the Ottoman Empire itself, a 
statement many historians will find disturbing. Be that 
as it may, such a hierarchical administration was a 
5 necessity for the Fatimid state. A state based on an 

articulate religious philosophy and da x wah "required 
utter obedience in a hierarchically stratified social 
order," or else its message could not be realized nor its 
universality become a reality . 3 

Although al-Siqilli had power to direct the Fatimid 

state for at least four years, it was Ibn Killis's 

initiative and his innovative spirit in government that 

it made him famous as the architect of the stratified 

Fatimid bureaucracy. During al-Mu'izz's and Jawhar al- 

Siqilll's era, Ibn Killis's genius in statecraft became 

is evident when he was given authority over taxation, 

treasury, prisons, endowments, police force, and all 

other related matters . 4 His ability to organize and to 

create an administrative system for the Fatimids became 

rn 3 P.J. Vatikiotis, "The Syncretic Origin of the 

Fatimid Da'wa," Islamic Culture , 28 (1954), 475-491. 

4 TaqI al-Din Ahmad ibn 'All al-MaqrlzT, Itti 'az al- 
iiunafal _bi-akhbar al-a' immah al-khulafa' (Cairo: n.p., 
19 67) / I, 144. 


apparent after his successes in managing the fisc. His 
tax reforms, which were fair and equitable, will be 
discussed in Chapter Two and Chapter Three in detail. 

Having discovered the talents of Ibn Killis, al- ' 

Mu'izz named him as his first vizier, which did not mean 1 

that al-Siqilll lost his prominence as the caliph' s chief 1 

consultant and as commander-in-chief of the army. 5 Al- < 

Mu'izz combined the talents of both men in order to ' 

secure the best possible government at the onset of his < 

rule in Egypt and Syria. Their tolerance of the 
diversity of their subjects helped make the transition 

from Ikhshldl to Fatimid rule possible. Moreover, t 

prevailing conditions prior to the Fatimid takeover I 

helped make the transition and the adjustment to Fatimid c 

rule a smooth process. c 

Prior to the Fatimid invasion, Egypt had been struck * 

by drought. Between 351/963 and 360/970, the Nile was 
very low, which meant that peasants could not irrigate * 


5 Al-MaqrizI, Itti 'az . I, 144: wa khalifatuhu al- 
Qa' id Jawhar ; and Ibn Zulaq 'AIT, Tarlkh Misr wa fada' iluha , 
Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale, MS arabe 1817, fol 47v, who 
speaks of Jawhar as the commander of the army, the vizier, 
and the organizer of the kingdom of al-Mu'izz. 

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! the land and thus could not cultivate it. The lack of 

crops, especially of wheat, led to famine. Prices of 
commodities rose, becoming prohibitive even for the rich. 
The plague spread and hundreds of people died, 
n Historians of this era speak of the inability of people 

ef to bury their dead and to their resorting to throwing 

corpses into the Nile. 6 To add to the natural disaster 
which struck Egypt, the military situation was unstable 



as well. Kafur al-Ikhshldi was unable to stop the 
Qaramitah who attacked Bilad al-Sham in 352/963 and who 
raided and plundered Egyptian pilgrims on their way to 
Mecca in 355/965. Kafur was also incapable of defending 
Egypt's southern border with the Sudan. The Nubian king 
over-ran the southern part of Egypt, plundered and 
devastated it, and then retreated from the area, leaving 
behind an impoverished population. Kafur could not 
really order his army to the battlefield, mainly because 
he could not pay their wages, a situation which led them 
to mutiny. 7 

6 Hasan Ibrahim Hasan, Tarikh al-dawlah al-Fatimiyyah 
(Cairo: Maktabat al-nahdah al-Misriyyah, 1958), p. 125. 

7 Ibid . , p. 125. 

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The Abbasid caliph in Baghdad, Kafur' s nominal ] 

suzerain, was incapable of sending an army to counteract 
the invading force of the Fatimids. Anyway, the caliph \ 

was a mere figurehead; actual power rested in the hands 1 

of the Buyids (334-447/945-1055) . The imminent threat to 
the Buyids was not from the Fatimids, however, but from 

the Byzantines, who were invading the northern provinces t 

of the Abbasid caliphate. For the Buyids to turn to the 
west and to send an army to stop the Fatimid attack on s 

Egypt was understandably a low priority. As for Bilad E 

al-Sham, the situation was no better. Sayf al-Dawlah al- s 

Hamdani, the ruler of Aleppo, took over Damascus and had E 

plans of his own to conquer Egypt, which prompted Kafur 
to organize his forces and fight Sayf al-Dawlah in the c 

battle of Marj 'Adra near Damascus; the latter lost the I 

battle and fled to Aleppo. Kafur followed him to Aleppo h 

and concluded a peace treaty with him. 

The whole of Syria at this point came under the 
Ikhshldls' rule. Although Kafur had subdued Syria, he w 

could not consolidate his power over the whole area, due 3 

to the trouble that Egypt faced internally. Kafur had to _ 

move his army back to Egypt to crush a revolt against him 



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by a nobleman named Ghalbun in 350/961. 8 Kafur died in 
357/967 and was succeeded by Ahmad ibn 'All al-IkhshidT, 
who was eleven years old. His father's cousin, al-Hasan 
bin Tanj, ruled the country in his name for one year. 

The situation deteriorated internally and externally. 

The Ikhshidis lost Syria to the Qaramitah; internally, 
the army mutinied for lack of money and provisions. They 
did not receive their pay and so they took to the 
streets. Ibn Tanj blamed his vizier, Ja'far ibn al- 
Furat, for the mutiny and imprisoned him, which did not 
solve the problem but offered the right time for the 
Fatimids to move in. 

Such was the political situation in Egypt on the eve 
°f the Fatimid invasion. Some of the members of the 
Ikhshidi army that revolted wrote to al-Mu'izz and asked 
him to send in his forces to take over Egypt. The 
Ikhshidis discovered the plot, gathered what was left of 
their army, and marched into battle against the Fatimids, 

who won an easy victory; the Egyptians surrendered in 

8 Jamal al-Din Abl ' 1-Mahasin Yusuf ibn TaghribirdI, 
al-zahirah f i muluk Misr wa' 1-Qahirah (Misr: Dar 
al-Kutub, n. d. ) , IV, 2. 

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Egypt offered fertile ground for the Fatimids, who 
thought of it as their first step east, for their long- 
range plans were to take over the dying Abbasid empire 
and to make Baghdad the seat of the Fatimid caliphate, a 
plan perhaps they never took the trouble to execute, nor 
would they have been able to muster. 9 More important was 
their feeling that Egypt would be a place from which they 
could spread their Isma'ili faith. The Fatimids had many 
Isma'ili da 'Is in Egypt during the IkhshTdi period and 
had felt that the da 'is , if successful, would help them 
conquer Egypt. The truth was that the da 'is ' activities 
did not prepare the ground for a successful takeover by 
the Fatimids because they were very secretive about their 
work, a policy they practiced even during Fatimid rule in 
Egypt. The Fatimids encouraged a secretive approach to 
proselytization in Egypt in order not to antagonize the 
majority of the population, which was either Sunni Muslim 
or Coptic Christian in faith. 

9 The name of the Fatimid caliph was pronounced in 
the khufcbah of the mosques of Baghdad for one year during 
the reign of al-'Aziz. See al-MaqrizT, Itti x az , I, 274. 

10 For an account of the Christians of Egypt and 

their wealth and numbers, see Abu Salih a 1 -Armani, Tarikh f T 

(continued. . . ) 















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The Fatimids' victory was the achievement of Jawhar 
al-Siqilli, the first person to lay the cornerstone of 
Fatimid rule in Egypt. Commander-in-chief of the Fatimid 
a army, he was born a Christian, possibly Byzantine 

r Orthodox, and converted to Islam. 11 He became a katib 

as (scribe) at the Fatimid court in the Maghrib. Being 

ay intelligent and dependable, he was named by al-Mu x izz as 

ny army commander at the age of fifty. 1 ^ Jawhar was endowed 

with foresight and wisdom, both of which were evident in 
his policy from the start. Upon entering Egypt, he 






10 ( . . . continued) 

nawahi Mi^r wa agta'ihS (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1894), and 
the editor's introduction by T . A . Evetts. Also see al- 
MaqrizI, Itti 'az, III, 142, for an account of the Sunnis of 
E 9ypt and of the MalikI, Shafi'i, and Hanbali madhhabs. 

11 'All Ibrahim Hasan, Tarikh Jawhar al-$igillT 
(Cairo: Matba'at Majazi, 1933), p. 21, where he argues that 
Jawhar was born a Muslim because Sicily was conquered by the 
Arabs in A. H . 212, an argument based on sheer speculation, 
as Ja whar was called al-RGmi, no doubt in reference to his 
Christian religious background. 

12 Jawhar al-Siqilli was born ca . 300/912 and was 
named commander-in-chief of the army in 351/962. He entered 
Egypt in 358/968. 


promised the Egyptians that no-one would be harmed. 13 He 

sent his own messenger into the streets to assure the 

inhabitants of clemency. This was a very important act. 

for it meant that the marketplaces would open and 

business would go back to normal shortly after the 

takeover. The transition from the IkhshTdls to the 

Fatimids thus became easy for the average Egyptian, who 

evinced loyalty and support because he was treated better 

than he expected. Al-Siqilll endeared the peasantry to 

him by having the government take up the task of 

maintaining the irrigation canals. 14 It was al-Siqilli's 

personality, his firmness, and his sympathy which enticed 

the Egyptians to follow him. 

Upon entering Egypt, al-Siqilll instituted changes 

in the rituals and formulas of the Muslim daily prayers 

to make them conform to Isma'Ili rather than to Sunni 

13 Al-Maqnzl , Ittijaz, I, 106-107; Ibn TaghribirdI, 
Al-Nuium , IV, 31. 

14 Ibn Zulaq 'All, Tarlkh Misr wa fada'iluha , fol 
47v; anonymous, Kitab jawahir al-buhur wa wagavi ' al-umur wa 
'aiayib al-duhur wa akhbar al-divar al-Mi^rivvah , Paris, 
Biblioth&que Nationale, MS arabe 1819, fol 43v; Muhammad ibn 
Ahmad ibn Iyas, Kitab Tarlkh Misr , Bada' i ' al-zuhur fi 
waqa 7 i 2 al_--ciuhur (Cairo: Buliq Press, 1311/1893), p. 46. 






3 \ 







2 i 






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He doctrine. 15 He made this change with such firmness that 

no-one challenged it. As a convert to Isma'ili Islam, he 
•/ possessed the zeal of a new convert. His accomplishments 

were due to his strong-mindedness and to his commitment 
to establish a strong administration for the Fatimid 
caliph in Egypt and Syria. 16 

) As for Ya'qub ibn Killis (formally, vizier from 368- 

;er 380/978-990), his strength lay in his determination to do 

) all he could to reach the top and to be in control of all 

offices of the caliphate short of antagonizing the caliph 
's himself. He was a strong-minded individual of great 


intellectual capacity. He organized the administration 
into diwans where he had full control over all 



15 'Abd Allah al-SharqawT, Tuhfat al-nazirln f l-man 
Hulliya Misr min al-wu!5t wa 7 1-salatin (Cairo: n.p., 1864), 
P- 45; Ibn Zulaq 'All, Tarikh Mi$r wa fada' iluhi , fol 47v; 
anonymous, Maimu 'ah , British Library, MS 5928, ff 264v - 
2 65r; 'Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Salam al-Quda'I and Abu-Husayn 
'All ibn Muhammad al-Rawhi, Kitab nuzhat al-albab , iami ' al- 
tawarlkh wa^l-adab , vol . I, British Library, MS 23,285, fol 
^3v. The section on Fatimid Egypt was written by al-Rawhl. 

16 Jalal al-Din al-Suyutl, Husn al-muhadarah fl- 
^Ishbar Misr wa' 1-Oahirah , Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale, MS 
arabe 5871, fol HOv; Ibn Zulaq 'All, Tarikh Mi^r wa 

£a da / iluha , fol 47v; Ibn Iyas, Tarikh Misr, p. 46. 

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instruments of government. A complete discussion of his t 

career is found in Chapter Two. p 

Al-SiqillT's first achievement, as mentioned £ 

earlier, was the building of Cairo, capital of the I 

Fatimid caliphate. A new site was chosen for the capital 
so that government personnel and army officers coming d 

from the Maghrib with al-Mu'izz would not antagonize the c 

indigenous population of neighboring Fustat. This choice t 

was one way to ensure that the assimilation process would b 

not carry with it side-effects such as rivalry among two P 

ethnically different groups, which could have led to a 

insurrections and revolts. Moreover, al-Siqilli employed r 

Sunnis and Copts in different government jobs - at the ° 

beginning - and avoided any clash he could between 
Egyptians and Maghribls . 17 This tactic enabled the s 

Fatimids to pursue their tolerant policy towards the non- c 

Isma 'III majority in Egypt. Al-Siqilll realized from the a 

beginning that the Fatimids could not impose their 
religious beliefs on the Egyptians, and that the best 
they could hope for was the conversion of many of them 

17 Muhammad ibn 'All ibn Muyass*r, Akhbar Misr H 

(Cairo: Institut frangais d' archeologie orientale, 1919), fi. 

II, 45. ? 

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through Fatimid good treatment. Historians of later 
periods recognized that fact: though Fatimid rule lasted 
for two centuries, when it ended there were hardly any 

Isma'Ilis in Egypt. 


Al-Siqilll's second major achievement was the 
doubling of the kharai tax from three and one-half per- 
cent to seven percent, which helped pump money into the 
treasury; the money in turn was used to build or repair 
bridges and roads. The network of roads made the 
provinces and areas on the periphery more readily 
accessible and prevented the population from thinking of 
rebellion. Tax collection was also made easier because 
of better communications . 

Al-Siqilli's brilliance as an administrator was 
shown in the building and lay-out of the new city of 
Cairo. He divided the city into quarters or harat (as 
are all Islamic cities) according to the ethnic and 

18 Bernard Lewis, "An Interpretation of Fatimid 
History, " Proceedings of the International Conference on the 
H istory of Cairo (March-April 1969) (Cairo: n.p., 1971), p. 
293; hereafter. Proceedings . 

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socio-economic backgrounds of the would-be residents. 1 ^ 

This division was important in order to rule the 

populace. Al-Siqilll believed that the administration of 

such ha rat provided fewer problems than if the population 

were integrated. In case of any disturbance or 

insurrection from within the new city, it was easier to 

put that disturbance down and to keep an eye on that 

sector so that no further upheavals would take place. 

Moreover, the social and economic discrepancies between 

classes were less keenly felt that way, for the poor were 

physically remote, not in close contact with inhabitants 

of the rich harat . The segregation of the population was 

so fixed in al-Siqilll's mind that he did not permit the 

Maghribis to live within the walls of the new city. 

Their settlements were outside the city proper. To 

insure that they did not spend the night within the walls 

of Cairo, he had a special crew of callers (munadls) who 

went through the streets calling, "No Maghrib! is allowed 

19 The word harat is synonymous with quarters or 
independent entities with their own mosques, madrasahs , 
suqs, and baths, rather than roads or alleys. For a full 
discussion of the harat, see Ibn TaghribirdI, Al-Nuium al- 
zahirah , IV, 42-54. 













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1 of 

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r ho 

to sleep in the city. 



Divide and rule was his policy 

to control the newly acquired territory. 

Commander-in-chief of the army, ruler of Egypt from 
359-361/971, a builder and organizer of a new city, al- 
SiqillT was also a lover of knowledge and a promoter of 
learning. He is credited with the building of the Azhar 
mosque, which became the symbol of the Isma'ill faith, 
although other schools of law were given permission to 

teach in it. During his era, al-Siqilli ordered the i 


in the Misr mosque to change the basmallah and to add the 
names of 'All and his family to the prayers. He also 
imposed Isma'ill rather than Sunni inheritance laws. 21 
On the political front, he tried in every way to right 
the wrongs committed against the indigenous population 
during the Ikhshidi period. 22 These were the 
achievements of Jawhar al-Siqilli. He laid the 
cornerstone of the administration which his successor, 

wed Ibn Killis, brought to completion. 

20 Ibn Muyassar, Akhbar Misr , II, 45. 

21 Anonymous, Majmu 'ah , British Library, MS 5928, fol 


22 Ibn Zulaq 'All, Tarlkh Misr wa fada' iluha , fol 47v. 

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Ibn Killis was unable to run affairs of state alone. 
He knew that the Fatimids, because they were a minority, 
needed a strong centralized administration in order to 
control their people. Furthermore, for maximum benefit 
to the Egyptians, Ibn Killis felt that the Fatimids had 
to have a sound fiscal policy in order to keep the 
ra x iyyah content. They promised to have an equitable 
society and they set out to do it through a fair system 
of taxation. 

The vastness of the Fatimid empire made it necessary 
for the caliph, with the help of his vizier, to 
reorganize the network of existing diwans and to create 
new ones. In order for the Fatimids to perfect the 
system, they had to introduce new administrative and 
personnel policies. Their aim was centralization and 
they did their best, although not always successfully, to 
ensure that their system functioned as they conceived it. 

With the reorganization of the existing diwans and 
the creation of new ones, hiring new personnel became 
possible. Fatimid hiring policies reflected an increase 
in the number of their co-religionists in government 
positions. They gradually introduced Maghribis into the 
system; thus the newcomers, who lack know-how, shared 

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their posts with Coptic or Sunni kuttab who were not, 
however, phased out of their jobs. 23 The Fatimids, out 
of their tolerance, but more accurately out of 
expediency, were aware that without the know-how of the 
indigenous Egyptian class of kuttab , they would never 
have been able to build their administration. Be that as 
it may, the Fatimids embarked on building their system by 
first dividing Egypt into four wilavat or administrative 
units: Qaws, the East, the West, and Alexandria. Syria 
and the Maghrib were also administrative units. The 
governors or walls of these provinces were directly 
responsible to the vizier or to the caliph. 

At the same time that these administrative divisions 
were created the dlwans were also reorganized and new 
ones appeared. Many of these bureaus duplicated each 
other's efforts. Such duplications were necessary as a 
system of checks and balances. One dlwan could confirm 
the figures of the other or it could show discrepancies 
between its figures and those of the other, thus leading 
to an investigation of the dlwan and the correction of 
the problem. In case of corruption, the vizier could 

23 Al-Maqrlzi, Itti x az , I, 119. 


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then fire all personnel connected with that specific 
bureau. In such cases the government would have been 
brought to a halt had there not been duplication of 
effort, particularly in dlwan al-iavsh , diwan al-rawat ib , 
and diwan al-kura ' . In dlwan al-iavsh and in diwan al- 
kura ' the number of horses given to the army was recorded 
by both diwans and the salaries of the army personnel 
were inscribed in both diwan al-iavsh and dlwan al- 
rawat ib ; while diwan al-kura ' also tabulated the salaries 
of the personnel in order to divide horses and mules 
among those who received them according to rank and 
seniority. 24 

The Fatimid bureaucracy was staffed from the special 
class of scribes. These scribes or kuttab were a select 
group of administrators who had studied the art of 
calligraphy and composition at the hands of masters in 
both fields. Highly regarded for their breadth of 
knowledge and education, this elite group were mainly 
composed of either Copts or Melkite Christians who had 
been trained to become scribes by their fathers and 

24 Abu 'Abbas Ahmad ibn 'All al-Qalqashandi, Subh al- 
a 'sha f 1 sina 'at al-insha' (Cairo: al-Mu' assasah al- 
Misriyyah al-'Ammah, 1964), III, 488, 489, 492. 


grandfathers and who had served in such positions since 
the Arab conquests. 25 As good mathematicians, the Copts 
were very valuable in keeping the books and accounts for 
all the diwans. As trained bureaucrats, they knew the 
art of administration, making it logical for them to 

attain even the highest position in government, the 
vizierate. 26 Many of the early Fatimid viziers were from 
this select group of administrators, referred to as arbab 
al -aqlam . 27 The majority of them were at one point in 
their careers either poets or scribes in the bureaus. 

The administration employed a large number of 

officials due to its extensive branches. Apart from 
employment in the di wans , the Fatimids had a great number 
of aadis and individuals working for the treasury ( bavt 

tonal) and the mint; both institutions will be discussed 
later in this chapter. 

25 Hasan Ibrahim Hasan, Tirikh al-dawlah al- 
Fa timiyyah , p. 293; Gustave von Grunebaum, "The Nature of 
the Fatimid Achievement," Proceedings , p. 210. 

26 Hasan Ibrahim Hasan, Tarikh al-dawlah al- 
Fatimiwah. p. 293. 

27 Al-Qalqashandi, gubh al-a x sha . Ill, 485. 


The number of diwans increased during the Fatimid 

caliphate. The Fatimids inherited an administrative 

system which was far from elaborate. Their predecessors 

left behind the following bureaus: dlwan al-iavsh , diwan 

al-kiswa wa' 1-tiraz , dlwan al-ahbas , and dlwan al- 

rawatib . This limited number of bureaus does not mean 

that the Ikhshldis did not have a system for collecting 

taxes or for running their state; nor does it mean that 

empires which preceded the Fatimids lacked such an 

apparatus. Far from it; what they lacked were 

bureaucracies which consisted of several bureaus or 

administrative units with clearly defined functions, 

fully staffed by individuals trained in the art of 

government, calligraphy, and composition. These scribes, 

as Ibn Mamatl described them, were expected to be "honest 

literary men, [preferably] jurisprudents..., [and] 

patient..., [who] treat people fairly and do not hesitate 

2 8 

to admit their errors and to correct them." 

A typical bureau employed around seventeen persons, 
each of whom had his own title and designated work. 

Among these seventeen officials were: the nazir, or 

28 As 'ad ibn Mamatl", Kitab qawanln al-dawawin (Cairo: 
Matba'at Misr, 1943), p. 66. 

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supervisor, who oversaw the work of the rest of the 
employees and who alone could initiate policy; mutawallT 
al diwan, or executor, who was responsible for all 
transactions that took place in his bureau; and the 

nmstawfi, or collection agent, a scribe whose duty was to 
keep tabs over the time spent by the employees doing 
their work and who alerted employees as to when taxes 
should be paid or collected. The mu^n, or helper, was a 
scribe who assisted the mustawfl. The nasikh copied 
incoming and outgoing mail i n order for the diwan to keep 
track of all its correspondence. The musharif, or 
overseer's job, did not differ much from that of the 
Mzxr. such duplication, as mentioned before, was a form 
of double-check. A bookkeeper, Jamil, calculated 
expenditures and went over all calculations made by his 
superiors; he saw to it that the books all balanced. A 
° r scr ihe, substituted for the ‘amil if the ‘amil 
were absent. Another scribe, the jahbid, collected dues. 

An eyewitness, shihid, attested to the correctness of all 
bookkeeping. A njj ib , or substitute, was used by all 
branches of bureaus when necessity dictated it. An amln . 
or confidant, functioned like the substitute. The masih, 
or surveyor, accompanied the cadastral survey and 

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registered its findings for the purpose of his dTwan. 

The da 111 , or guide, was a scribe who took information 

gathered in the surveyor's records as to names of 

landholders and amounts of land they held in a given 

area. The ha viz controlled the use of the narcotic leaf, 

qat , and its production. The khazin received foodstuffs, 

Stored them, and kept records of them. Al-hashir was the 

"squeezer" who supervised the compliance of dhimmls with 

Islamic and specifically Fatimid regulations of dress and 

2 9 

behavior . 

These seventeen employees did not include the ra' Is 
al-diwan , or head of the bureau. He was answerable in 
turn to ra'Is al-ru'asa' (chief of all the bureaus), who 
ranked after the caliph and the vizier. His task was to 
coordinate the findings of all diwans and to take them to 
the vizier and caliph for their approval. The chief of 
the bureaus also had the ultimate say regarding 
appointments or terminations of heads of diwans . In his 
hands lay the ultimate authority for dispensing funds; he 
received requests for increases in the budgets of diwans 
as well. According to Ibn Taywir, whor* al-Qalqashandi 

29 Ibid . , pp. 297-306 for a complete description of 
all the employees of the dtwan . 

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quotes, "There were no Christians in this position all 
through the Fatimid caliphate except for one al-Ahram. 

As mentioned previously, the Fatimids did not 
inherit an elaborate system of government from the 
Ikhshldls; all they found were the remnants of 
disintegrated bureaus, such as diwan al-javsh , al-kiswa 
1-tiraz, al-ahbas , and al-rawatib . ^ To this group, 
Ibn Killis , with the help of al-SiqillT, added sixteen 
bureaus, thus creating the elaborate administration of 
which both men had dreamed. All of these bureaus may be 
divided into several groups for the purpose of this 
discussion, although the Fatimids obviously did not make 
such a division. These groups of cflw~ans were the 
scribal, military, regional, internal Egyptian, and 

The scribal bureaus consisted of diwan al-insha' and 
diwan al-barld , the bureaus of formulation of documents 
and of correspondence. The head of diwan al-insha' had 
to be a fluent and eloquent author and calligrapher. He 
received all incoming correspondence for the caliph, 

30 Al-Qalqashandl, Subh al-a x sha . III, 489. 

31 Hasan Ibrahim Hasan, Tarlkh al-dawlah al- 
g atimiyyah , p. 292. 

I fe&d 

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discussed its contents with him, then answered the 
correspondence and sealed it with the caliphal seal. 

Within his bureau there were two other important 
officials. The first was a confidential secretary, al~ 
tawqi x bi' 1-qalam al-daqlq fl' 1 -mazalim , who sat with the 
caliph when he was alone to repeat the Qur' an with him, 
to relate tales of the prophets, and to help him in his 
calligraphy. Another duty, which in fact was the most 
important, was to be present as a confidential secretary 
to the vizier when the latter judged legal cases. The 
second important official was a recorder, or al-tawql_l 
bi' 1-qalam al-ialil # whose main function was to record 
cases and to present them to the confidential secretary, 
who in turn signed them and gave them to the vizier and 
the caliph. Then, after all the essential signatures 
were collected, the documents would be inscribed in the 
dlwan . ^ 

Finally, the other scribal bureau was that of the 
mail, dlwan al-barid . This bureau was of great 
importance to the caliph; it made sure that 
correspondence reached its destination. This bureau used 

32 Al-Qalqashandi, Subh al-a'sha , III, 487. 

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carrier pigeons; it also served as an intelligence bureau 
for the caliph. 33 

The military group of bureaus consisted of the 
bureau of the army, diwan al-javsh ; bureau of fiefs, 
diwan al-icrt5 bureau of supplies, diwan khaza' in al- 
kiswah and bureau of clothing, diwan al-t iraz . 

The bureau of the army took care of the different 
military elements, such as the Turks, Kurds, Maghribls, 
Sudanese (the blacks), the Ghuzz,and the Daylamites. 

Each of these groups had its own leader who reported to 
the head of the bureau concerning the affairs, of his own 
group. The bureau also took care of military equipment, 
ammunition, and supplies. The army general received 
lists of all provisions from the head of this diwan . 

This bureau also took care of building ships for the 
navy^. needless to say, it was one of the biggest in the 
administration. The military formed the backbone of the 
country and also drew the largest sum of money from the 
treasury. The head of this bureau had to be a Muslim. 

33 Hilal ibn al-Muhsin al-Sabi', Kitab al-wuzara' , 
ed - A. Farraj (Cairo: Dar Ahibba' al-Kutub al- 'Arabiyyah, 
1958), p. 177; Ibn Muyassar, Akhbar Misr , II, 54; Hasan 
Ibrahim Hasan, Tarlkh al-dawlah al-Fatimivvah , p. 294. 

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His position was very sensitive, particularly because he 

provided the army with all money, equipment, and 

ammunition. He also made sure that army personnel had 

enough horses and mules to transport their arms, 

ammunition, and goods. The bureau had several 

individuals whose jobs were to keep track of soldiers who 

died or who went on vacation, as well as those who 

reported for duty. The latter officials were called 


nuqaba' al-umara' . 

Dlwan al-iqta x , or the bureau of fief allocation, 

kept records of fiefs given to army members. It had a 

complete account of all the names of those to whom land 

was given in return for service in the army. The 

fiefdoms were registered in this dlwan along with the 


names of their holders. 

The last two dlwans in this group were not separated 
at the beginning of the Fatimid era but became so under 
the vizierate of Ibn Killis. Diwan al-kiswah and dr win 
al-tiraz respectively dealt with food and clothing 
provisions for the army and for some administrative 

34 Al-Qalqashandi, Subh al-a 'sha . III, 488; al 
Maqrlzi, Itti x iz . III, 183. 

35 Al-Qalqashandi, Subk al-a 'sha , III, 489. 

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personnel. Their division into two bureaus was probably 
engineered in order to keep a close watch on their 
expenditures. Such were the bureaus associated with the 
military. 36 

The third group of bureaus had to do with regional 
affairs. It consisted of two dlwans , diwan al-Sham and 
^l w an al-Hijaz . Although al-Sham was a province by 
it self , a special bureau was created to handle complaints 
coming from it. The Hijaz diwan regulated the routes for 
the pilgrimage or hai i and provided safe conduct and 
places of rest for travellers. 37 

As for the internal bureaus, they were created to 
handle the affairs of the Egyptian provinces, such as 
coordinating tax collection and paying salaried personnel 
in the provinces. They also dealt with the complaints of 
farmers in particular, who were concerned with the 
central government's maintenance of irrigation canals. 

The Fatimids dug the canals so that more land could be 
irrigated and more crops grown. Irrigation was probably 

36 Ibid . . Ill, 490. 

37 Hasan Ibrahim Hasan, Tarlkh al-dawlah al- 
g atimiyyah , pp. 292, 294; Ibn al-Qalanisi, Dhavl tarlkh 
P imashq , ed. H.F. Amedroz (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1908), p. 49. 


the single most important issue which the Fatimids had to 
deal with, because in the event of crop failure, their 
political stability would be threatened; this issue was 

o o 

most critical during the reign of al-Mustansir . Ibn 

Killis instituted these diwans in order to have direct 

access to them rather than wait for reports sent to him 

by the walls or governors . 

There were three diwans that dealt with provincial 

affairs: diwan al-Sa x id , diwan Asfal al-Ard , and dlwan 

al-Thuqhur . Dlwan al-Sa x id was responsible for both the 

Upper and Lower Sa'Id regions. In addition to what was 

discussed above, this bureau handled the accounts and 

arrears owed to the central government. Dlwan Asfal alz. 

Ard was concerned with the towns and cities facing the 

Mediterranean Sea, excluding the seaports. The ports 

were handled separately by a special diwan called diwan 

al-Thuqhur . The functions of these three bureaus were 

the same, the only difference between them being that 


they handled different geographical areas. 

38 Al-Qalqashandl, Subh al-a x sha , III, 491. 

39 Ibid. , III, 491. 



Although the Fatimids inherited such bureaus as 
diwan al-rawatib and diwan al-ahbas , they created several 
new and specialized bureaus to supervise all technical 
aspects of the administration. One of the most important 
bureaus was diwan al-rawatib , which was concerned with 
salaries and wages. Others were diwan al-kharai , or 
bureau of taxation; diwan al-kura * , or the bureau of 
transportation; diwan al-jihad , construction bureau; 

al-ahbas , prisons bureau; diwan al-iawali wa' 1- 
mawanth. personal status affairs; and diwan al-shurtah , 
or bureau of internal security. Lastly were diwan al- 
ma j 1 i s and diwan al-tahqiq , both of which will be 
described below. 

The bureau of salaries and wages, or diwan al- 
rawatib, contained lists of all the scales of wages or 
salaries, starting with that of the vizier down to the 
most menial official. The diwan also had lists of all 
the names of mercenaries in government service and the 
name of every slave (male and female) . Its scribes, under 
the direction of a chief scribe or katib al-kuttab , had 
several duties: to collect information on how many 
Persons were employed in the government or in the army; 
on the number of deceased officials and whether their 



positions were filled or vacant; and on the amount of 
money, food supplies, and livestock to be divided among 
those who received such non-monetary compensation. The 
bureau provided tentative lists of names with proposed 
salaries to the vizier and to the caliph for acceptance. 
The caliph had to sign the proposed list and send it back 
to the bureau in order for it to be acted upon. 

Meanwhile, the caliph had the right to change, modify, 
raise, or lower the salaries of any individual of his 
choice, even though recommendations were proposed by the 
bureau. Depending on who the caliph was, his word or 
that of the vizier was the ultimate word on the subject. 
Power as such rested with the central figure of the 
central government in the person of the vizier 
("government by deputy") or the caliph. ^ 

The bureau of taxation was one of the most 
important, for government revenues known as khara j came 
through it to the treasury. The khara i existed prior to 
the Fatimid takeover of Egypt. Historically it was 
created by the Arab invaders in the seventh or early 
eight centuries; but Ya'qub ibn Killis, with the help of 

40 S.D. Goitein, "The Origin of the Vizierate and its 
True Character," Islamic Culture , 16 (1942): 383. 

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'Asluj ibn al-Hasan, reorganized the kharai and created a 

bureau to deal with all aspects of taxation . 


enacted a new system of tax collection and land survey 
which gave the central government greater income. Prior 
to this change, Egypt had had several centers for tax 
collection. There was no central bureau of taxation, a 
situation which created much unrest among the population, 
who were overtaxed by their collectors; the latter 
pocketed the difference and never reported any of their 
gains to the government. The new dTwan had a strict 
policy in tax collection which made the average person 
content with Fatimid rule for nearly a century. Tax 
collectors became salaried personnel rather than tax 
farmers who took a share of the taxes for themselves. 
Moreover, the bureau had scribes who took care of the 
complaints of those who were taxed unfairly. The vizier 
would then look into these cases and mete out punishment . 
Another very important contribution which this new bureau 
made was to list the expenses of all the diwans of 

41 Abu-Qasim 'All ibn Munjib ibn al-Sayrafi, Al- 
ls ha rah ila man nala al-wizarah (Cairo: Institut frangais 
d' archeologie orientale, 1924), p. 102; al-Qalqashandi, Subh 
a l-a'sha . III, 492. 

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government. From this bureau, then, money was allocated 
for the rest of the bureaus according to their needs and 
expenses. Money which remained after the expenses of the 
diwans were paid was transferred to the treasury. The 
new reorganization of the bureau of taxation made the 
government aware of the sources of taxation, which areas 
yielded most of the kharai , and which areas were richest 
in agricultural production. Moreover it gave the 
government a notion of which diwans spent the most and on 
what. This method allowed the government direct control 
of these diwans and a say in how and where money should 
be spent. According to al-Maqrizi, diwan al-kharaj 
supervised three sub-dlwans: diwan al-rabba x , diwan al- 
mukus, and diwan al-sina x ah . The first collected money 
from hospitals, personal wagf s , and monasteries. The 

second dealt with taxation on i 

' land and on 

entertainment areas. The last collected taxes on 
manufactured goods. 42 

Diw5n al-kura ' , or bureau of livestock, handled the 
stables of mules horses, donkeys, camels, and beasts of 

42 Al-Qalqashandi, $ubh al-a *sha . III, 466-467; Ibn 
Mamati, Kitab gawanln al-dawawin , p. 341; al-Maqrrzi, 

Itti % az . III, 342. 

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burden used for construction and for the use of the 
diwans, along with all equipment and fodder for both 
animals in stables and wild animals such as giraffes and 
elephants. This bureau also handled the salaries of 
personnel who worked in the stables. Three individuals 
worked in dlwan al-kura * : a scribe, an undersecretary, 
and a helper. 43 

The Fatimids had several other diwans which were 
highly specialized, such as dlwan al-iihad , also called 
.di wan al- v ama' ir , the bureau of construction, which 
supervised manufacturing in Egypt. It also built ships 
for the fleet. This bureau concerned itself with cutting 
wood from lower Egypt for construction and heating. It 
took care of the extras that were spent on admirals and 
navy personnel, as well as the compensation of its own 
personnel. But when the dlwan was unable to cover 
salaries, the head of the dlwan could draw the extra 
needed directly from the treasury via petition to the 
vizier. 44 

43 Al-QalqashandT, Subh al-a x sha . III, 492. 

44 Ibid. , III, 492. 

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DTwan al-ahbas was another specialized bureau. It 
had a very special place in the administration, for its 
personnel had to be Muslims only, and from the scribal 
class. Not only were they Muslim scribes; they were also 
sworn witnesses. This bureau also had several salaried 
directors, two scribes, and two helpers. Part of the 
taxes collected from the north and the sea coast went 
directly to dlwan al-ahbas . This bureau handled all 
legal procedures involving prisoners and the prisons to 
which they were sent. 45 

DTwan al-shurtah , or the police bureau, had two 
headquarters: one in Fustat, called al-shurtah al-sufla , 
and the other in al- 'Askar, called al-shurtah al- 'ulya . 
Jawhar al-SiqillT moved the latter from al- 'Askar to 
Cairo. The power of the shurtah was stronger in Fustat, 
for originally it was a bigger city than Cairo and its 
population was not Shi 'i. 46 Moreover, Fustat was not the 
seat of government like Cairo, where many army men and 
civil servants could interfere with the police; the 
shurtah had stronger jurisdiction in Fustat than in 

45 Ibid . , III, 490. 

46 Hasan Ibrahim Hasan, Tarlkh al-dawlah al- 
Fat^imivvah , p. 296. 

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Cairo . ^ The head of this bureau, sahib al-shurtah , had 
to be a Muslim well-versed in the law. His job was both 
religious and secular in character. His duties will be 
discussed in full under the judicial branch of 
government, although the sahib al-shur^ah was tied to the 
executive end of it also. 

Diwan al-majlis used to be the original and only 
bureau. It received all the information from all the 
other dlwans and had several scribes and assistants. The 
head of this diwan was second in rank to ra 7 Is al-dawawln 
or ra' Is al-ru' asa > and third in rank to the vizier, as 
far as status and power were concerned. His title was 
iLstimarat daftar al-mailis . He was the spokesman of the 
central government in the provinces and handled all 
distributions of money and food, kept count of all 
government personnel, including those who died in the 
line of duty. The bureau was responsible for ceremonies 
held on religious holidays and all expenditures connected 
with them. Its personnel supervised all disbursements 
from stored grain and food, disbursed money to the sons 
and daughters of the caliph and all his blood relatives, 

47 Ibid . , p. 296. 

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and kept records of all incoming and outgoing gifts from 
the caliph's household including gifts to dignitaries of 
foreign governments . Finally, the bureau handled 
compensation of couriers and the costs of burial services 
for the caliph's entourage. 48 Such was the diversity of 
functions that diwan al-mailis handled that the Fatimids 
broke it down later into the other diwan s. 

The last of the specialized bureaus, diwan al- 
tahqi q , kept track of all the other diwans . It 
investigated other bureaus, if need be, and it acted as a 
watchman over other diwans so that no embezzlement of 
funds would take place. Its chief was the fourth most 
important person in the government. 49 

These were the permanent bureaus of the Fatimids. 
Although many others were created, some were in existence 
for only a short time because they served specific, 
temporary purposes, such as diwan Umm al-khalifah al- 
Mustan^ir , which was dissolved after her death. 50 The 

48 Al-MaqrTzT, Itti 'az . III, 338; al-Qalqashandi, 

Subh al-a 'sha . Ill, 489-490. 

49 Al-QalqashandT, Subl} al-a 'sha . III, 338, 489. 

50 For a complete discussion of all the diwans , see 
al-Maqrizi, Itti 'az . III, 335-344. 

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diwans did not represent the whole administration: 
although the employees of the bureaus formed the majority 
of the bureaucratic cadre, the judicial system and the 
mint were run as separate operations. 

The judicial system during the Fatimid era was based 
on Shiite law, which "did not differ much from the 
[Sunni] even in its application" at that time. 51 This 
new system had replaced the Sunni one which had been in 
existence since the twenty-first year of the hi i rah , 
not all Egyptian judges were Isma 'ill Fatimids; the 
government appointed judges from all the schools of 
jurisprudence, all of whom had, however, to use the 
Shiite school for interpreting the law. 

The Fatimids were the first to introduce the 
position of the supreme judge, or gldP 1-qudat , into the 
judicial hierarchy outside Baghdad. The judge's seat was 
Cairo and his jurisdiction was the Fatimid domains, 
unlike his counterpart in the Abbasid caliphate who was 
only the chief qadl of Baghdad. The title was given 

51 "Elle ne diff£rait pas beaucoup de cette dernidre 
meme dans son application." A.M. Magued, "La fonction du 
juge supreme dans l'etat fatimide, " feqypte Contemporaine , 51 
(I960): 47. 


first to one Abu al-Tahir, a Sunni judge who had been 
invested by the Abbasids to take care of justice in Egypt 
and who, when Jawhar al-Siqilli arrived, was given the 
title of supreme judge. Officially the position of 
qadi' 1-qudat did not become a part of Fatimid 
institutions of law until al- 'Aziz's time. 53 As a 
position it was possible to combine it with the office of 
da v i al-du 'at or chief propagandist. 54 "The office of 
Supreme Judge derived its authority by way of delegation 
bestowed upon [the holder] by the Caliph himself." 55 
This office was not a government position but was a 
delegated "ministry" over the community of believers. 

The individual nominated was supposed to be of the 

52 Al-MaqrTzi, Itti x az , I, 137. He bestowed the 

title of qa<ji' 1-qudat on Abu al-Tahir, who had previously 
been named qatfl by the Abbasid caliphs al-Mu 'tadid, al- 
Muktafr, al-Muqtadir, al-Qahir, al-RadT, al-Muttaqi - , al- 
Mustakfl, and al-Mutl ' . See E. Tyan, "Kadi," Encyclopedia 
of Islam , new ed. (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1960- ), IV, 373- 


53 A.M. Magued, "La fonction du juge supreme," p. 48. 

54 Al-MaqrizT, Itti 'az , III, 336. 

55 A.M. Magued, "La fonction du juge supreme," p. 48. 

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highest religious integrity, well-read, and well-versed 
in Islamic jurisprudence. 

From 525/1130, during al-Hafiz's caliphate, the 
chief judgeship was shared by four qudat from four 
schools or madhhabs : Imami, Isma '111, Shafi'I, and 

MalikI . 56 

Not only was the chief judgeship during the 

later Fatimid period shared; it also became theoretically 
part of the job of a wazlr tafwld . Many such viziers 

carried the title of qadi 

al-Muslimin (or chief 

judge of the Muslims) or kafll qudat al-Muslimm (or 
guarantor of the Muslim judges).^ 7 

The chief judge was to see that justice was done all 

over Egypt. He nominated the jurisconsults and 


the different areas. He also set the niche for direction 
of prayers during the construction of new mosques. He 
saw to it that waqf s were administered honestly and that 
orphanages were up to the standards of the time. His 
duties also included the inspection of the bureau of the 

56 For further information on the judges of Egypt 
during the Fatimid era, see Adel Allouche, "The 
Establishment of Four Chief Judgeships in Fatimid Egypt," 
JAOS, 105 (1985): 317-320. 

57 Al-Maqrlzi, Itti x az . III, 337. 


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mint. In addition, he made sure that money was spent on 
mosques in accordance with their activities, which 
included the students, teachers, writers, and workers. 

One of his most important duties was to supervise the 
administration of the courts, or maialis al-hukum . 58 The 
chief justice held court himself at the Misr Mosque in 
Cairo. He was one of the pillars of the judicial system, 
along with the muhtasib (market inspector) and sahib al- 
shurtah (prefect of police) . 

The muhtasib , or inspector of markets, drew his 
authority from religious texts and laws. In Islamic 
jurisprudence, the norm, al-amr bi ' 1-ma x ruf wa / 1-nahy N an 
al-munkar , is incumbent upon all Muslims. The Qur'an , 
the hadlth , and the shari x ah gave religious sanction to 
the muhtasib to enforce the laws so that justice would 
prevail. The muhtasib' s job, therefore, was to see to it 
that there was no cheating or abuse of weights and 
measures in the market place. This part of the work of 
Fatimid mufotasibs was no different than that of his Sunni 
predecessors. But where the difference occurred was in 

58 A.M. Magued, "La fonction du juge supreme," p. 52; 
S.D. Goitein, A Mediterranean Society (Berkeley: University 
of California Press, 1967), II, 364. 

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the list of munkarat or prohibitions which in Isma 'TIT 
Shiite tradition were more numerous than in the Sunni 
tradition. Justice here was based on an Isma '111 
interpretation of religious morality: hence, for 
instance, no cheating in weights and measures, no beating 
of students in madrasahs in places where they could be 
maimed or harmed. ^ All of the muhtasib' s actions to 
forbid such acts were based on a new religious morality, 
Isma '111 Shiite Islam. 

The job of the muhtasib included also the 
supervision of ahl al-dhimmah (protected non-Muslims) so 
that they would not deviate from what was expected of 
them in the customary dress codes, housing codes, etc. 

But, as mentioned before, their main function was control 
over the industrial and commercial parts of cities in 
order to punish cheats and robbers, and to protect the 
average inhabitant from abuse. ^ 

59 A.M. Magued, "La fonction du juge supreme," p. 50. 

60 Nasir-i Khusraw, Safar Namah , trans. into Arabic 
by Yahya al-Khashshab (Beirut: Dar al-kitab al-jadld, 1970), 
P- 108. Nasir reports that because of their muhtasibs, the 
Egyptians felt so safe that they left their shops unlocked, 
and no one would steal their goods. 

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Muhtasibs were chosen from those persons with a 
reputation for high integrity, knowledge of religious 
laws (especially the law of finance necessary for this 
moral and practical role) , 61 which accounted for the 
great importance attached to the position. 62 

As for the prefect of police, sahib al-shurtah , his 
. judicial function was to inflict punishment or execute 
the sentence of a judge. In the absence of a judge, he 
could take the law into his own hands and pronounce and 
execute sentence. In many cases the prefect of police 
was called wall and his prerogatives and duties did not 
differ much from that of the governor of Cairo or other 
governors in Egypt, who also took care of law and order. 
He was aided by a police corps entrusted with executing 
judges' orders and making sure, even by use of force, 
that justice was done, even if the losing side in a legal 
case was bent on enforcing an illegal verdict. 63 

61 A.M. Magued, "De quelques jurisdictions fatimides 
en figypte,” fegypte Contemporaine . 52 (1961): 57. 

62 Ibid. , p. 57. 

63 For further information, see Ibn Muyassar, Akhbar 
Mi^r, II, 45; and Ibn Duqmaq, Al-Intisar li-wasitat "iqd al- 
amsar (Bulaq: al-Matba 'ah al- 'Amiriyyah, 1893), IV, 11. 

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The last major divisions of government to be 
considered here are the treasury and the mint. The 
treasury was independently staffed and not associated 
with any of the bureaus. It was the central repository 
of all money; from it, expenditures of the various 
bureaus were made, including salaries of government 
personnel. The treasury was a separate institution in 
that even the caliph-imam did not have access to it 
freely. It was not his private treasury from which he 
could draw funds; its function was to be a repository 
whence all money was distributed and wars financed. The 
income yielded to the treasury from the different taxes 
included the kharai on the land, and the iawalT , taxes on 
£hl al-dhimmah . 64 The other income came from taxes 
imposed on imports and on manufactured goods; income from 

zakat; income from inheritance taxes; income from the 

fk C 

mint, the bureau of weights and measures, and prisons. 

The mint ( dar al-qlarb ) , an independent institution 
under the strict supervision of the gadi' 1-qudat and his 

64 Hasan Ibrahim yasan, Tarikh al-dawlah al- 
g a timiy yah , p. 549. 

65 Ibn Mamatl, Kitab qawanin al-dawawm , pp. 308, 

319 . 


na^ib, was responsible for minting coins of equal weight 
and value. Weights were also made in dar al-(jarb in 
order to avoid cheating in the market place. Some 
sources refer to this institution as dar al- jarb wa' 1- 
_jiyar . 88 Three kinds of metals were used in the minting 
of coins: gold, silver, and nuhas (which was either 
copper or brass unless otherwise specified) . Four 
minting houses existed during the Fatimid period: in 
Alexandria, Qaws, Tyre, and Askalon. 67 Although al- 
Qalqashandl speaks of four minting houses, al-MaqrizT 
relates that the caliph al-Amir (reigned 496-525/1102- 
1130) built a mint in the carpenters' quarter of Cairo 
(£- a . y y al-khar ratlin ) . 68 Dinars minted in this new place 
were higher in gold content than any dinar of the same 
era. Apart from the regular dinars for daily use, the 
Fatimids struck special commemorative dinars which the 
caliphs distributed among the amirs and the a Wan (the 
notables). 89 It is important to note that al-Bata' ihi, 
the vizier of al-Amir, created also an exchange and 

66 Al-Maqrlzi, Itti^az , III, 336. 

67 Al -Qalqashandl, $ubh al-a 'sha . III, 365. 

68 Al-MaqrizT, Itti x az . III, 92. 

69 Ibid . , III, 92. 

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depository ( dar wikalah ) for merchants who came to Cairo 
from Iraq or Syria to facilitate their business. 70 It 
was located near the mint. Finally, new dinars were 
struck when caliphs assumed power, which did not mean 
that at other times new coins could not be minted. When 
al-Yazurl became the vizier of al-Mustansir (reigned 428- 
487/1036-1094), he had his own name included on the 
coinage, a rather uncommon phenomenon. 71 

Such were the administrative units of the Fatimid 
bureaucracy. Its intricacies and the way it functioned 
have fascinated many historians of medieval Islamic 
institutions, who have seen in the Fatimid hierarchical 
system an efficiency and an order which can be attributed 
to the system's founders: the viziers. 

70 Ibid., Ill, 92. 

71 Ibn Muyassar, Akhbar Misr, p. 9. The coins read: 
Buribat fT dawlati ali' 1-huda , min ali-Taha wa ali-YasTn , 

M ustansirun bi' llahl ialla ismahu , wa 'abduhu al-Nasiru lil- 
d!n . 



As the institution of the vizierate was less than 
two centuries old, and the office of vizier not defined, 
nor an elaborate support system in place to help him 
. actualize his position, the Fatimids took this 

institution from the Abbasids and tried to make it one of 
the pillars of their administration. The vizierate as an 
institution was to become a permanent feature of the 
Islamic state, so that even "the term vezir has come to 
be internationally accepted in the sense of prime 
minister with unrestricted powers in an oriental 
government." 1 The Abbasid caliphs wanted to spread their 
da 'wah at the beginning of their caliphate but could not 
handle all affairs of state themselves; therefore, they 
delegated certain executive powers to their 
representatives or wazlrs . The Fatimids followed this 
Abbasid practice. 

1 S.D. Goitein, "The Origin of the Vizierate and Its 
True Character," Islamic Culture , 16 (1942): 255. 



Although the Fatimids' dream was to actualize "the 
perfect 'Alid theocratic state" 2 3 through the absolute 
rule of the caliph, who was called the "substitute for 
God on earth" ( qa ' im maqam Allah ) , the caliph- imams could 
not achieve such a theocracy without delegating some 
power to their viziers. In speaking about the authority 
of the imam, al-Kirmanl emphasizes his role as an 
absolute ruler who should avoid division of power: 

The Imam constitutes the 'heart' of this Divine 
Politeia [of the caliphate], because in the same 
manner that the organs of the human body are 
subservient to the heart, the seat of inspira- 
tion and life, so also in politics should the 
affairs of man be commanded by an Imam, who is 
the light of God, having absolute authority and 
avoiding a division of power. ^ 

Al-KirmanT finds himself recommending that the imam be 
the all-encompassing ruler of the Muslim world and 

2 P.J. Vatikiotis, "A Reconstruction of the Fatimid 
Theory of the State," Islamic Culture , 28 (1954): 399. 

3 Ibid., p. 408, quoting and translating Hamid al- 
Dln al-Kirmani, Rahat al- A aql , ed. Muhammad Kamil Husayn and 
Muhammad Mustafa Ramadan (Cairo: n.p., 1953), pp. 214-215. 


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eventually of the universe, without having any division 
or delegation of power, a task which was not within the 
realm of possibility. Caught in this dilemma, al-Kirmani 
goes on to say that "there are no delegated powers or 
offices in the state, only executive functions 
subordinated to the Imam' s absolute theocratic 
authority." 4 5 For al-Kirmani, there are four pillars of 
the polity: "Imam; the king; his Wazir , and agents of the 
minister; and the subjects. Thus, the vizier was 
conceded an important position in the political life of 
the Fatimid caliphate: he was made a pillar of the 
political administration. Fatimid political theory, as 
articulated by al-Kirmani, gave the viziers limited 
power, yet some viziers had much more influence and 
authority than others . It would appear that everything 
depended on the personality of these individuals and that 
of their respective caliphs. Fatimid practices, 
therefore, did not fit Fatimid theory. For example, how 
was the Fatimid vizierate different from the Abbasid 
model and from al-Kirmani' s model? Did the Fatimid 

4 Quoted in Vatikiotis, "A Reconstruction," p. 408. 

5 I bid . , p. 408, citing al-Kirmanr, p. 214. 

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vizier fit into al-Kirmani's theory of the theocratic 



Although al-Kirmani's theory of government was 
supposed to be the best model for the theocratic Fatimid 

state, the Fatimid caliphs and their advisors were very 
pragmatic and knew that such a plan could never work. 
Their first concern was to consolidate their power, 
subdue their enemies, and maintain their grip over Egypt 
and Syria. For them, proselytization and the spread of 
the Isma 'III da 'wah were secondary to actual political 
hegemony over the land. Although "Fatimism as a 
political creed would never have succeeded without a 
religious creed," 6 the Fatimids were also aware of the 
Egyptians' resistance to their rule as an alien house and 
a non-orthodox one; so to force them to convert or to 
fight would have caused a great many wars and upheavals 
which the Fatimids wanted to avoid. To Qadi al-Nu'man, 
the "primary political objective is the removal of 
oppression and injustice by the overthrow of existing 
Political authority." 7 After all the Fatimids' success 

6 P.J. Vatikiotis, "The Syncretic Origins of the 
Fatimid Da'wa," Islamic Culture , 28 (1954): 488. 

7 P.J. Vatikiotis, "A Reconstruction," p. 405. 

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was based on the fact that they were liberators of their 
subjects from "political and social disorder, economic 
disequilibrium and moral misery." 8 9 

The Fatimids built their administration as a 
parallel institution to their da x wah , a situation which 
al-Kirmani found unacceptable. For him, politics had to 
comply with the da x wah for the establishment of proper 
order. This is no different than the concept of an 
Islamic government where "the caliphate represented the 
political and the religious leadership of the community 
of Muslims, individual believers and subjects belonged to 
a polity defined by religious allegiance." 10 Furthermore 
political institutions and religious communities 
developed independently of each other and the 'Golden 
Age of the ideal Muslim society was very short-lived. 

The frustration shown by al-Kirmanr because of the 
abandonment of the Muslim concept of the state is clearly 
shown in his work. He wanted to recreate the perfect 

8 P.J. Vatikiotis, "The Syncretic Origins," p. 489. 

9 P.J. Vatikiotis, "A Reconstruction," p. 408. 

10 Ira Lapidus, "Separation of State and Religion in 

the Development of Early Islamic Society," I JMES , 6 (1975): 

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Islamic state which, in the fourth century hijra , became 
impossible. Although the ideal caliphate was supposed to 
be the best and highest form of government, and its laws 
were divine, the "historical caliphate" fell short of the 
ideal. The Fatimids realized that and consciously or 
unconsciously practiced a separation of state and 
religion, leaving the Isma 'ill da 'wah and the Fatimid 
administration separate but parallel institutions. 

The Fatimid caliph was different from any other 
caliph because he was the imam and he partook of divine 
attributes. This explains why al-Kirmanl felt it 
necessary for the imam to be the absolute ruler with no 
delegation of powers. Von Grunebaum described the 
Fatimid caliph as having "no human contemporary who would 
be his equal - not merely in respect of rank but of 
substance. There is thus no power to whom he could 
possibly be beholden." 11 As such he was huiiat Allah 
- Lala al-arcj (God's proof on earth), the living testimony 
of the existence of God. Not only was the caliph the 
bead of the sect but also of the state; so how could 
there be any separation of state and religion such a 

11 Gustav von Grunebaum, "The Nature of the Fatimid 
Achievement," Proceedings , p. 207. 


case. One might argue that the Fatimid caliphs 
consciously saw to it that state and religion were 
separated. One might also speculate that they practiced 
such a separation because if they linked both together, 
in the event that the caliphate collapsed, their religion 
or da 'wah would also disappear with it. 

When the Fatimids took over Egypt, they were faced 

with the task of building a centralized administration 

capable of controlling the newly-acquired territories. 

One could assume that their hierarchical bureaucracy was 

modelled after their da 'wah , which was highly stratified. 

The Fatimid da 'wah was kept separate from the state 

because the da 'wah predated the state and was meant to 

post-date it. As Samuel Stern put it, "The Isma'ilT 

activity [inside] and outside the Fatimid state was the 

direct continuation of the missionary activity in the 

third century A . H . which resulted in the establishment of 

1 o 

the state." As such the Fatimids did not want to 
contain the da 'wah within the boundaries of their 
administrative apparatus but to let it run in accordance 
with its organization. The Fatimids did not offer to 

12 Samuel Stern, "Cairo as the Center of the Isma'ilT 
da'wa," Proceedings , p. 446. 

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incorporate the 'ulama into the administrative system. 

The da x Is were not a bureaucratic cadre, nor were they 
salaried personnel in the administration. The da 'wah 
remained independently run without having to be limited 
by the confines of a bureaucracy. What the Fatimids 
actually achieved was to keep the civil administrative 
system running parallel to their religious system or 
da x wah , converging and meeting only at the level of the 
imam . In Bernard Lewis's words, the imam "was an emperor 
and king of his vast domain, yet outside the boundaries 
of his empire he was a shepherd of the da x wa and its 
chief proselytizer . " 13 The imam kept this "double 
apparatus both coordinate and apart, with the result that 
the 'party organization' long survived Fatimid rule on 
the Nile." 14 

In his article, "An Interpretation of Fatimid 
History, " Bernard Lewis included "the mission" or da x wa 
as a "third branch of government" alongside the two well- 

13 Bernard Lewis, "Ra'y fl tafslr tarlkh al 
FatimiyyTn, " AbhSth al-nadwa al-duwaliyyah li-tarTkh al 
gahirah , 1969 (Cairo: Dar al-Kutub, 1970), I, 290. 

14 Von Grunebaum, "The Nature of the Fatimid 
Achievement," Proceedings, p. 207. 


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known pillars of the state, the armed forces and the 
civil bureaucracy: 

The Fatimids organized [the da 'wah l into a third 
branch of government, with its own functions, 
structure, and hierarchy, under the direction of 
the Chief Missionary and the ultimate authority 
of the Caliph in his capacity as Imam. The 
Fatimids thus created something previously unknown 
to Islam - an institutional Church. ^ 

According to Lewis, the Fatimids organized the da 'wah and 

made it part and parcel of the government, a hypothesis 

which Stern and von Grunebaum among others cannot accept . 

Von Grunebaum argued that the state offered the sect (the 

Isma'ilis) the backing of a great power which made the 

' wah m °re effective abroad; within the confines of 

Egypt it gave them the freedom to develop their 

organization. But, as he went on to say, "the sect 

structure did not coincide with that of the state [nor 

could] the missionaries and their hierarchy... be 

identified as functionaries of the Egyptian state," 16 as 

15 Bernard Lewis, "An Interpretation of Fatimid 
History," Proceedings , p. 290. 

16 Von Grunebaum, "The Nature of the Fatimid 
Achievement," Proceedings , p. 207. 

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Bernard Lewis seemed to suggest. Stern, on the other 
hand, reaffirms von Grunebaum by stating that although 
"Egypt was the center of Isma'ill propaganda the exact 
organization of this propaganda remains somewhat 
obscure ." 17 Furthermore, the evidence for the mission's 
relationship between the center and the provinces is 
sketchy, which makes for a rather uneven picture. Apart 
from occasional mentions by al-Qadi al-Nu 'man of 
religious emissaries arriving at the Fatimid court in 
Africa, or al-Mustansir' s letters to the du 'at of Yemen 
under the Sulayhids, one would be at a loss to know how 
much communication there was between the center and the 
periphery of the da 'wah . 

Thus to assume that the Fatimids organized the 
da 'wah after it had been already in existence for a 
century, and after it had facilitated the creation of the 
caliphate, is an overstatement of their mission. The 
Fatimids followed a conscious policy of keeping religious 
matters separate from administrative ones, at least once 
they arrived in Egypt. When Jawhar al-SiqillT took over 
Egypt from Ikhshldls, his primary pre-occupation was to 


establish for the Fatimids a lasting rule over the land. 
He was quick to recognize that the Fatimids could not and 
should not impose their religious beliefs on the 
Egyptians. All they could hope for was the conversion of 
many of the inhabitants to Isma'Ilism, which treated the 
indigenous population tolerantly. Upon his arrival in 
Egypt, Jawhar saw that it was more expedient to leave the 
judicial authority in the hands of a Sunni judge, Abu al- 
Tahir, who had been the chief judge of Egypt representing 
the Abbasid caliphs in Baghdad and who now continued as 
qadi ' 1-qudat . This decision seems to indicate that the 
Fatimids were conscious that if they imposed their 
religion by pursuing an active policy of Isma 'ilisation, 
whether in the civil administration or otherwise, their 
rule over Egypt might prove impossible. Faced with the 
dilemma of imposing their religion on the indigenous 
population or actually looking after their political 
interests as rulers, the Fatimids opted for the latter. 
Their mission was to spread their da x wah but not at the 
price of creating resistance to and rebellion against 
their rule. The Fatimid caliphs were known to come down 

18 Al-MaqrTzI, Khitat , I, 137. 

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hard on extremists within their own community in order to 

consolidate their own power; a case in point is the 
ousting by the caliph al-Hakim of "the extremists who 
were responsible for the establishment of the Druze 
community. 1,19 

The Fatimid civil administration was conceived by 
Ya'qub ibn Killis, who with the help of al-Siqilll was 
able to create a form of government which was bent on 
recruiting its employees from the indigenous population, 
both Coptic Christian and Sunni Muslim. There was a 
conscious effort by the architects of the new 
administration to be non-sectarian and to leave the 
da 'wah in the hands of the du 'at in order to avoid 
confrontation with the Egyptians. The Fatimids did not 
want to force their religious ideology on the Egyptians 
and were cautious to avoid resistance to their rule and 
to their efforts to consolidate their grip on the 
country. They followed literally the hadlth , La ikrah fX 
_al-din , "No compulsion in religion." This did not mean, 
however, that the caliph could not profess his Isma'Ilism 
nor that the state was not a Fatimid one. But it did 

19 Von Grunebaum, "The Nature of the Fatimid 
Achievement," Proceedings , p. 206. 

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mean that the da 'wah remained secret and underground 
rather than an open activity. 

Government positions were open to those who best 
served the state regardless of their religious 
affiliation. The Fatimids were known for their tolerance 
towards their subjects. The Isma 'ill-leaning Ikhwan al- 
Safa* expressed this tolerance eloquently: "It befits our 
brothers that they should not show hostility to any kind 
of knowledge or reject any book. Nor should they be 
fanatical in any doctrine, for our opinion and our 
doctrine embrace all doctrines and presume all 
knowledge." 20 If the Fatimids adopted even partially 
this idea, it would explain a great deal their ability to 
staff their government to the highest levels with non- 
Isma'Ilis If the da 'wah and the state had been one, the 
bureaucracy would have been manned mainly by adherents of 
the Isma 'ill faith. Qadi al-Nu'man described the 
political objective of the Fatimid caliphate as "the 
removal of oppression and injustice by the overthrow of 

20 S.M. Stern, citing the Ikhwan al-Safa' , in Studies 
in Early Isma 'ilism (Jerusalem: Hebrew University Press, 
1983), p. 86. 

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existing political authority." 21 After all, Fatimid 
success was based on the fact that they were liberators 
of their subjects from "political and social disorder, 
economic disequilibrium and moral misery." 22 Unlike 
Hamid al-Din al-Kirmani, al-QadT al-Nu 'man did not feel 
threatened by the separation of state and religion. Al- 
KirmanT, writing during the time of the sixth Fatimid 
caliph, al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah (reigned 996-1021), felt it 
necessary to emphasize the role of the imam as an 
absolute ruler who should avoid division of power. Al- 
Kirmani did not believe in delegating power or office in 
the state. He felt that the power vested in the viziers 
and in the highest officials far exceeded the definition 
of the theocratic state. It is because al-KirmanT 
observed the division between the civil administration 
and the da x wah that he tried to reform the state and set 
it on its course as ideally conceived. For al-Kirmani, 
as mentioned previously, politics had "to comply with the 
da x wah for the establishment of proper order." But 

21 P.J. Vatikiotis, "A Reconstruction of the Fatimid 
Theory of State," p. 399. 

22 P.J. Vatikiotis, "The Syncretic Origins," p. 488. 

23 P.J. Vatikiotis, "A Reconstruction," p. 408. 

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the Fatiraid caliphs and their advisers were pragmatic and 
knew that this would have never been possible. Their 
concern was to maintain their grip over Egypt and Syria. 
For them, proselytization and the spread of the da 'wah 
were secondary to actual political hegemony over the 
land. Although "Fatimism as a political creed would 
never have succeeded without a religious creed, " 24 the 
Fatimids were willing to part company with the da 'wah to 
keep the civil administration separate from the religious 
mission and to rule as both imams and, in effect, 
emperors . 

By way of comparison, the Sulayhid Queen of Yemen 
followed the same policy as the Fatimids in separating 
the state and the da 'wah towards the end of her rule, for 
she had seen that her power was dwindling and that for 
the da* wah to continue in the Yemen, she would have to 
opt for such a division. 25 

The Fatimids were aware that the Isma 'ili da 'wah 
helped bring about their caliphate. They were also aware 

24 P.J. Vatikiotis, "The Syncretic Origins," p. 488 

25 Husayn ibn Fayd Allah al-HamdanT and Husayn 
Sulayman Mahmud, Al-Sulav hiw5n wa' 1-harakah al-Fatimivvah 
fj' 1-Yaman (Cairo: Maktabat Misr, 1305/1890), p. 180. 

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that the da 'wah should continue regardless of what 
happened to the caliphate. In recognizing that the 
da x wah should not be tied down to one particular place or 
government, the Fatimids were able to separate the civil 
administration from the religious one. This kind of 
separation served as a sort of open policy in recruiting 
viziers. The personal convictions of viziers were 
generally of no concern to the caliphs, as long as these 
men were capable of handling the affairs of the 

The elite group of viziers studied here had a 
standard of ideal behavior set by the theoreticians of 
the era, such as al-Mawardi . They were expected to 
fulfill certain obligations and functions. They were 
also given privileges and prerogatives of men in the 
highest administrative offices of the caliphate. THe 
viziers were supposed to be men of the highest integrity. 
They were commanded to be just, to be charitable, and to 
know God. They were to live by and practice justice in 
their ways, speech, and conduct, even with their enemies. 
They were to be calm, composed, and not be angered by the 

26 Abu' 1-Hasan 'All al-Mawardi, Adab al-wazir (Cairo: 
Dar al-Fikr al- 'Arab!, 1929). 


slightest provocation. They were to be straightforward, 
know when to joke and when to be serious, where and in 
the presence of whom. Seriousness was an asset and a 
necessary quality for a vizier to rule his people. 
Honesty, frankness, and straight-forwardness were equally 
important characteristics. 

The functions of the vizier were many, but his most 
important duty was to be the caliph's own man. The 
caliph placed all trust in him. The latter knew the 
intricate turnings of Dar al-Khilafah. He guarded its 
secrets with his life. As to the degree of 
administrative and political power that the vizier 
enjoyed, they depended entirely on the kind of vizierate 
bestowed upon him by the caliph. There were two kinds of 
vizierate. As we shall see in the sources cited below, 
the first was called wizarat al-tanfidh , in which the 
vizier only executed the wishes of the caliph rather than 
initiate any moves of his own. This kind of vizierate 
existed mainly in the early days of the Fatimid 
caliphate. It was distinguished from wizarat al-tafwTj , 
in which the vizier was given the power to initiate, if 
he deemed it necessary, any reforms to insure the smooth 
functioning of the state, from levying taxes to going to 

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war. This latter is the same as wizarat al-savf wa' 1- 

galam , a vizierate of "the sword and the pen." Such a 

vizierate also gave the holder full control over the 

treasury (the bavt al-mal ) and the mint. 

y Al-MawardT summarizes the duties and prerogatives of 

wizarat al-tanf idh as follows. First , 

[the vizier should be] the mediator between 

the king and his subjects, because the king 

is glorified and set aside from the eyes of 

his people. He is also protected from the 

practice of direct correspondence or discourse 

[with his ra 'ivvah l and that is why he chooses 

to have a delegate or grand vizier [wazir 

? 7 

muj_azzam] . 

This kind of ministry entailed different levels of 
^ mediation, such as mediation between the king and his 

army; between the king and his agents [Jjjmmal] , which 
category included heads of bureaus and all the employees 
n of the state; and, finally, between the king and his 

subjects. A ministry of this kind protected the rights 
of the king in matters of private wealth and the 
collection of taxes, etc. The vizier was given the task 
of choosing the employees and supervising their work. 

27 Ibid . , p. 37. 


Second, according to al-Mawardi, 

the vizier should give the king his sound opin- 
ion, advice, and counsel, for the king although 
endowed with unerring judgement and clear de- 
liberation is secluded [because of his lofty 
position] from pursuing these matters [i.e., 
mundane affairs] . Knowledge by experience is 
concealed from him. That is why the king needs 
a well-rounded and respected man with knowledge 
and experience to deliberate for him. 28 

In this respect the duties of the vizier are many: he 

should provide counsel, help the king formulate his 

opinion, and, if the king is wrong, protect him from 

erring and from oppressing the ra 'ivvah . The opinion of 

the "chosen man" (the vizier) should be devoid of 

personal favoritism. 

Third, al-Mawardi says that 

the vizier should be the king's wandering eye 
and his listening ear. He should describe 
what he sees in detail and without any distor- 
tion. He should also tell all the truth with 
no exception, for he is an equal in kingship 
and power with the king. He is chosen to be 
especially close, and he is appointed to the 
highest administrative office. In return he 

28 Ibid . , pp. 38-39. 

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is expected to take care of the affairs of his 
king. 29 

He should discuss with the king matters pertaining to 
policy, keep him informed about what takes place, be in a 
position to distinguish among the important issues, and 
to take care of more pressing problems promptly, while 
not shelving the less important ones and dealing with 
them in due time. 30 

Fourth, the vizier should "offer up his comfort and 

ease for his king. He should protect him by defending 

his name against those who put him down. He is never 

absent even if allowed to be, and he does not despair if 

he is made to repeat [a task]." 31 

As for wizarat al-tafwid , which combines the power 

of the pen and the sword, al-Mawardl described it as 

a vizierate in which [the vizier] takes hold of 
management, planning, economy, military, organiza- 
tion and direction [of affairs of the kingdom] . 

He is the one who write contracts and breaks them. 

He is the one who appoints and who dismisses those 


Ibid. , 

p. 41. 



p. 41 . 


Ibid. , 

p. 42. 


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m power. 

The conditions or the duties of wazlr al-tafwld are four. 
First, he should implement the orders of the king whereby 
if the vizier thinks the order should be modified, he 
should act to ensure its modification; if it is adequate, 
it should be implemented immediately. He should then 
carry out his plans in order to run the kingdom 
effectively, informing the king of every plan he has. He 
should also see to it that his agents execute the tasks 
assigned them. in all he does, he should keep in mind 
the wishes of the people ( al-ra'ivvah l . Second, he 
should attend to the defense of the kingdom by defending 
the king from his relatives, friends, supporters, and 
foes; and by defending the kingdom against the enemy. 

Then he should attend to his personal defense; and 
finally he should defend the populace from being abused 


by their king. Third, fearlessness, enterprise, 
initiative, and courage in politics are the job's most 
important conditions. Fourth, cautiousness ( al-hadar ) . 
alertness, and circumspection are prerequisites in this 
position. In order for the vizier to run the affairs of 

32 Ibid . , p. 10. 


the kingdom smoothly, he should be careful and cautious, 

but not to the point of becoming weak and spiritless . ^ 

After having discussed the duties and prerogatives 

of both kinds of vizierates, al-Mawardi summarizes the 

differences between them as follows: 

1. The king gives power to wazir al-tafwid to 
safeguard his rights and the rights of his 
ra *ivvah while the wazir al-tanf Idh is given 
direct orders from the king. 2. There is no 
contract for wazir al-tafwid , while for the 
tanfidh there is a specific contract by which 
the vizier is made an official of the king. 

3. The wazir al-tafwid is bound by his signature 
whereas wazir al-tanf Idh is not responsible for 
any orders because they emanate from the king. 

4. The wazir al-tafwid can be discharged from his 
office by simple utterance of the phrase [by the 
king] , whereas the wazir al-tanfXdh is discharged 
by a "truce" in which severance pay is given 
because he is the king's employee [ ma'mur ] . 

5. The wazir al-tafwid leaves office by resigning 
from his position and returning all tasks pertain- 
ing to the administration back to the king; where- 
as if the wazir al-tanf idh wishes to resign, he 
has no attachments and can do so of his own will. 

6. The wizarat al-tafwid is a combination of both 

33 Ibid . , pp. 10-21 passim. 

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military and administrative ministry [with all 
powers vested in both] , while wizarat al-tanf Idh 
does not have any of these powers. 

The theoretical vizierate was in several respects 
very different from the Fatimid experience. Many viziers 
exercised bad leadership, lacked knowledge of affairs of 
state, or indulged themselves with intrigues. Even 
worse, some viziers worked to promote themselves over the 
interests of the ra 'iyyah and the caliphate. Those who 
came close to al-Mawardl' s description, or to al- 
Kirmanl's, were few and far between. Probably no human 
being could attain the degree of perfection that both 
theoreticians would have preferred. The rigid criteria 
by which al-Mawardl wanted to measure the viziers 
remained an ideal that few could realize. The next 
chapter will consider the salient characteristics of the 
sixty viziers who served the Fatimid caliphs and will 
study three of them in order to determine how closely 
Fatimid practice followed Fatimid theory. 

34 Ibid . , p. 43. 

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We have already seen the resemblances and 
differences between the Abbasid and Fatimid vizierate, 
but many questions remain concerning the latter. How, 
for example, did it fit into al-Kirmanl's theory of the 
theocratic state? Did it help the Fatimids build an 
administration which was the most hierarchical of its 
time? Were the viziers as an elite group effective in 
mobilizing the ra 'ivvah as has been suggested? Did they 
form a cohesive unit - as far as their backgrounds, their 
administrative experience, social, political and 
religious - which gave the Fatimid caliphate a sense of 

The method that will be pursued here in studying the 
vizierate and the role of the viziers in the Fatimid 
caliphate is prosopographical . As described by Lawrence 
Stone, "prosopography is the investigation of the common 
background characteristics of a group of actors in 



history by means of a collective study of their lives ." 1 2 
This method constitutes a basis for answering questions 
relating to "birth, death, marriage and family, social 
origins and inherited economic position, place of 
residence, education, amount and source of personal 
wealth, occupation, religion, experience of office. 

Prosopographical study, the data for which are 
contained in Appendix Two, has yielded the following 
results. Concerning duration of office, thirty-five 
viziers were in office for a year or less, thirteen of 
them served less than one month, twelve spent less than 
one year, and ten one whole year in office. Seven 
viziers spent two years in office; eight served three 
years; and two viziers spent four years in office. Four 
viziers served eight years, and four served more than 
nine years in office. 

As for geographic origins, the viziers came from 
lands even outside the caliphate: fourteen Iraqis, nine 
Egyptians, seven Armenians, six Maghribis, six Shamis, 
two Arabs (bedouins?), two Kurds, two Palestinians, two 

1 Lawrence Stone, "Prosopography, " Daedalus , 100 
(Winter 1971) : 46. 

2 Ibid . , p. 46. 

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Persians, one Libyan, one Sicilian, one Rum! 

(Anatolian?), and seven unknown. 

In religious background there were fewer Isma 'ill 
viziers than all other religious groups combined: twenty- 
nine non-Isma'IlT to twenty-three Isma'IlT viziers. 

Among the non-Isma 'Ills, there were seven Christians, 
three Jews, eleven Sunnis, six Shi 'is, one "Unitarian" 
( tawfoldl , perhaps Druze?) , one Muslim without a madhhab , 
and eight unknown. 

Professionally or occupationally, the majority of 
viziers, forty of them, came from administrative 
positions such as ru' asa ) al-dawawln or kuttab class. 

Five were gadls , two from the military, two merchants, 
one "literary man" (adib) , one tribal leader, one court 
guard, one spy, and one laborer. Six viziers were of 
unknown professional or occupational background. 

The viziers' socio-economic backgrounds fall into 
the following categories: fifteen were very wealthy, 
influential, and well-known in society; another fifteen 
were wealthy but not as well known or as influential; 
seven aristocrats ( amirs and tribal shaykhs ) ; three 
religious men of whom two were from very well-known and 
wealthy families; six from what one would today term the 

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middle class; three freed slaves; two slaves; one eunuch; 
one peasant; one sayyid ; and six unknown. The criteria 
by which the contemporary sources chose to designate the 
viziers depended on their families' social standing and 
their wealth, measured by how much money they had, their 
ownership of beasts of burden, of slaves, and of 
concubines, their ownership of farms, and the extended 
families' prestige and holdings. For some of the 
viziers, chroniclers such as Ibn Muyassar in Akhbar Misr 
and Ibn al-Sayrafl in Al-Isharah ila man nala al-wizarah , 
furnish such information . ^ If one were to superimpose a 
twentieth-century categorization on the viziers' class 
backgrounds, one would find that twenty-five belonged to 
the upper class; twenty-one belonged to the middle class 
(including fifteen from the upper-middle and six from the 
middle-middle classes) ; and seven belonged to the lower 

3 For example, Ibn al-SayrafT, in his biography of 
Yaljya ibn al-Mudabbar, the vizier of al-Mustansir, 
introduces him as follows: "This vizier was of a famous 
family in the Abbasid state; historical works have included 
information about his ancestors." In describing Abu Shuja' 
Muhammad ibn al-Ashraf, Ibn al-Sayraff has this to say: "He 
was generous and well to do, as is mentioned in the 
histories." Al-Isharah , pp. 41, 53. 

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classes. Despite the Fatimids' efforts to recruit 
qualified viziers regardless of background, those who 
attained the office tended to come from the better- 
educated and more affluent classes. 

Violence was the norm by which the viziers departed 
from this world, twenty-eight of them falling victim to 
conspiracies, jealousies, rivalries, etc. Nineteen died 
natural deaths. As for the rest, thirteen in all, no 
cause of death is recorded. 

Although heirs to different political traditions, 
the Fatimid viziers served their caliphs within the 
framework of the new administration created by their 
masters and tailored for their own purposes of 
government. With few exceptions (such as al-Afdal, the 
vizier of the caliph al-Amir) , they worked within the 
confines of the bureaucracy. Because the majority came 
from the scribal class, they were well versed in the art 
of government and capable of becoming pillars of the 
administration. In speaking of the Fatimid system in 
these words: "Given the perfection of [its] centralized 
administrative machine that would continue in large 
measure to work with fair effectiveness regardless of the 

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directing hand, Von Grunebaum seems to suggest that the 
Fatimid system was somehow immune to disintegration if 
the viziers were not competent, a partially true 
statement. The Fatimid administrative apparatus was 
structured to take into account the differences between 
one vizier and another and still be effective; yet no 
system functions to its full capacity if the management 
is defective. 

Social and geographical mobility were welcomed by 
the Fatimids. Freed slaves or noblemen were treated 
alike by the caliphs, who gave them equally honorific 
titles. When Abu Najm Badr al-JamalT al-Mustansirl, a 
slave of the caliphate ( min mama Ilk al-dawlah ) , worked 
his way up the ladder and became the vizier of al- 
Mustansir, he was given the title of al-savvid al-aiall , 
- mir al~ ~]uyush, sayf al-Islam , nasir al-imam . The title 
given by the same caliph to one of the most celebrated 
Fatimid viziers, Sa'Id ibn Mas 'ud, was 'amid al-mulk zavn 
a l-kufat , much less honorific than that given to a slave. 
The Fatimids were after competence and know-how. They 
wanted trustworthy individuals with insight and 

4 Von Grunebaum, "The Nature of the Fatimid 
Achievement," Proceedings , p. 200. 

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experience in bureaucracy to insure a smooth- running 
government. The Fatimids' lack of rigidity, in other 
terms their policy of non-discrimination towards 
religious minorities, non-natives, and lower classes, 
encouraged those seeking the second-highest office of 
state to prove themselves as excellent administrators and 
to be rewarded by selection to the vizierate. 

Some would argue that this policy towards aliens, 
non-Isma 'Ills, and those of humble background, was due to 
the Fatimids' conviction that those men would serve the 
state with all honesty, integrity, and with no intention 
of creating problems for the caliph. This conviction 
might have been partially true, but the Fatimids solemnly 
believed that they were in power to relieve Muslims of 
the intolerance of other dynasties, to wipe out famine, 
and to remedy the ills that had afflicted the ummah. 

As previously discussed, the Fatimids had the 
majority of their viziers as "alien residents" ( 'abir 
tariq or qharib ) , which could have been considered a 
liability, especially if the viziers' allegiance was to 
their place of birth. In many instances, that birthplace 
would have been either under the rule of the Abbasid 
caliphs, the Seljuk sultans, or some other dynasty in the 

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eastern Mediterranean. Many of the "alien resident" 
viziers were descendants of bureaucrats who had served 
those dynasties. This background, instead of being a 
liability, was a ticket for them to become administrators 
and eventually to become viziers in the Fatimid 

On the whole, Fatimid viziers had a great say in 
running affairs of state, with the exceptions of the 
majority of the viziers of the caliph al-Hakim bi-Amr 
Allah (reigned 386-411 /996-1021) . The majority of 
viziers were wuzara' tafwld, rather than wuzara' tanfidh, 
and they ran the government single-handedly. Al-SuyutT 
suggests a different viewpoint in Husn al-mufyadarah : that 
this situation in part was due to a lack of ability on 
the caliphs' part from al-Mustansir on to maintain total 
control. Much of the power was in the hands of the 
viziers, as had been the case with the later Abbasids.^ 

5 Jalal al-Din 'Abd al-Rahman al-SuyutT, Husn al- 

muhadarah fi akhbar Migr wa' 1-Oahirah . London, British 

Library, MS 23,332, fol 113r. 'Abd Allah al-Sharqawi, 

Tufrfat al-nazirin f l-man wulliva Misr min al-wulat wa' 1- 

(Misr: n.p., 1864), p. 47. If the Fatimids were 

unable to control their realms, nor able to govern, how can 

(continued. . . ) 

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Many of the caliphs did not abdicate all their 
responsibilities in administering their realm in favor of 
their viziers. Had they done that (as the Abbasids had 
before them) the caliphs would not have been able to fire 
their viziers at will or even to dispose of them in a 
harsher manner. Moreover, dynastic succession of viziers 
did not occur. The caliphs from al-Mustansir onward were 
willing to give viziers more power, because in many 
instances the caliphs themselves were not charismatic 
characters or able persons who could have dictated their 
terms to the ra 'ivvah . Moreover, many of the later 
caliphs were far too young (not having attained their 
majority) to be able to handle government business. 
Therefore, many of the tafwid viziers were given 
honorific titles indicative of their enhanced power. ^ 

5 ( . . . continued) 

one explain al-Hafiz's dismissing his vizier and ruling as 
the only administrator? "Al-Hafiz killed Ridwan [his 
vizier] and did not appoint another after him; he directed 
affairs himself until he died." See 'Imad al-Din Abu'l- 
Fida' , Al-Mukhtagar fl tarlkh al-bashar (Beirut: Dar al- 
Ma'rifah, 1972), III, 12. 

6 As an example of titles given to tafwid viziers, 

one could choose Badr al-Jamali (466-488/1073-1095) and his 

(continued. . . ) 

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Many other viziers with such titles, however, had little 
influence on the bureaucracy or with the people. 7 But, 
on the whole, one could attribute the government's 
functioning, or lack of it, to this elite group, the 
tafwld viziers. They pulled the levers, although the 
last word in many cases rested with the caliph, who more 
often than not took their recommendations and acted on 
them without any modification or amendment. 

6 ( . . . continued) 

son. Badr's titles were: al-sayyid al-aiall , amln al- 
j uyush , sayf al-lslam, na^ir al-imam . Badr's son al-Afdal's 
titles (487-515/1094-1121) were: shahin^ah al -savvid al- 
ajall, al-afdal, sayf al-lslam , ialal al-lslam , sharaf al- 
anam, nasir al-din, khalil amir al-mu'minln . These two 
viziers were in office for twenty years each. 

7 As for honorific titles given to viziers during the 
caliphate of al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah or of al-Mustansir, such 
viziers ruled for very short intervals and did not influence 
events or contribute to the running of the caliphate. To 
mention but a few as examples: the vizier of al-Mustansir, 
Abu Hasan Tahir ibn Wazlr (458 A. H . ) was entitled al-aiall , 
a l-waiih , sayyid a_ l-kufat , nafis al-dawlah . zahTr amir al- 
muirninin. He was in power for a few days. So was his 
contemporary, Abu 'Abd Allih Muhammad ibn Abi Hamd, who 
spent one day as vizier and was given the title: al-qadir 

al- 'adil , shams al-umam. 

ru ; asa' al-savf wa' 1-qalam, 

taj al- x ula, x amid al-huda , sharaf al-din 
wa' 1-MuslimTn, ^amim amir al-mu'minin wa : 


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Although the Fatimids had a variety of viziers from 
different backgrounds, administrative experience, and 
social, political, and religious affiliations, they were 
to a certain extent a cohesive unit, as far as their 
ability to run the administration within the boundaries 
or set norms of Fatimid bureaucratic practice. That 
practice had been created by Ibn Killis with the help of 
Jawhar al-Siqilll and their entourages. As far as 
mobilization of the ra x ivvah to support the system, the 
Fatimid viziers were successful. Full-fledged 
insurrections against them were rare. An alien house, 
the Fatimids, with the majority of their ra 'iyyah as non- 
Isma'llls, had no opposition to their rule. As Goitein 
put it, the Fatimids "knew how to make friends and how to 
influence public opinion."® Moreover, the Fatimids 
allowed their ra x ivvah "freedom of speech and thought, 


because their political prestige was so great." 

The viziers on the whole helped to build the 
administration of the Fatimids as a unique experiment in 
bureaucratic organization because it was possible for 

8 S.D. Goitein, A Mediterranean Society, I, 34. 

9 Bayard Dodge, "Fatimid Hierarchy and Exegesis," 
Muslim World . 50 (1960): 132. 

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. . •- 

such men to experiment, to suggest, and to implement 
their ideas. The liberal spirit of the Fatimid period 
promoted talent and encouraged a spirit of innovation. 1 ^ 
Concerning the viziers themselves, then, it is clear that 
Fatimid practice did not fit al-Kirmani's theory of the 
theocratic state. 

To demonstrate this divergence between theory and 
practice, the careers of three prominent viziers from 
three different periods of the Fatimid caliphate will be 
discussed. (Data on the fifty-seven other viziers may be 
found in Appendix One). The three viziers are: Ya'qub 
ibn Killis, Bahram al-ArmanT, and Badr al- Jamal! . These 
men represented the Fatimid administration at its best. 
They all contributed to its uniqueness and effectiveness. 
And they built the bureaucracy and helped it develop into 
a model to be followed by other Islamic empires. 

By far the most important figure to hold the 
vizierate was Ya'qub ibn Killis, the architect of Fatimid 
administration. Ibn Killis was an Iraqi Jew of 
distinguished lineage. 11 It is noteworthy that all the 

10 S.D. Goitein, A Mediterranean Society , I, 34. 

11 Ibn Killis traced his ancestry to Aaron. The 

(continued. . . ) 

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information we have concerning him comes from Arab 
historians; the Jewish sources of his time are silent. 

As Fischel points out, "the shortage of Hebrew sources 
t may be responsible for this, and possibly his conversion 

to Islam, as the result of which Jewish sources might 
prefer to ignore him...." 12 Whatever the case, Ibn 
Killis still maintained his close relationships with the 
Jewish communities in both the Maghrib and Egypt. Ibn 
Khallikan notes that Ibn Killis died a Jew ( mat a 'ala 
dlnih) ; in the same breath Ibn Khallikan disregards his 
own remark and says: "He professed Islam, and it was true 
that he converted to it, and that his Islam was a true 
one." 13 Whether or not Ibn Killis was truly a Muslim is 

11 (... continued) _ 

biographer Ibn Khallikan lists him under the name Abu'l- 

Faraj Ya'qub ibn Yusuf ibn Ibrahim ibn Harun ibn Dawud ibn 

Killis. See Ibn Khallikan, Wafa vat al-a'yan , ed. Ihsan 

'Abbas , 8 vols. (Beirut: Dar Sadir, 1968-1972), VII, 27. He 

is also said to have claimed descent from al-Samaw'al, the 

well-known pre-Islamic master of the fortress of al-Ablaq. 

See Philip K. Hitti, History of the Arabs , 9th ed. (London: 

Macmillan 1968), p. 107. 

12 Walter J. Fischel, Jews in the Economic and 
Political Life of Medieval Islam (New York: Ktav, 1969), p. 

13 Ibn Khallikan, Wafa vat al-a'yan , VII, 34. 

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a matter for debate, for he helped many Jews attain 
positions in the Fatimid bureaucracy. Whether this was a 
matter of their being most qualified or whether he was 
playing favorites cannot be proven. 

As a young man, Ya'qub studied the art of writing 
and mathematics in Baghdad. After spending the first, 
formative part of his life there, he moved with his 
merchant father to Syria, where he set up his own 
business. His stay in Syria did not last very long and 
he then moved to Egypt in 331/942. There he worked as a 
currency exchange broker. Ibn al-Sayrafl describes him 
as an honest man who was loved by his co-workers and his 
clients alike. 14 At that time the Fatimids' immediate 
predecessors, the Ikhshldls, were the rulers of Egypt. 
Kafur al-Ikhshldl, impressed by Ya'qub's honesty and 
intelligence, invited him to join his court. At the 
court Ya'qub worked very hard to win Kafur' s trust, which 
he soon attained. He thus became sole organizer of the 
court's expenditures. Kafur became more and more 
dependent on Ibn Killis and thought of giving him full 
authority over the realm as a vizier. But Kafur was 

14 Ibn al-Sayrafl, Al-Isharah , p. 91. 

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unable to make this appointment because Ibn Killis was 
not a Muslim. ^ Upon learning that, Ibn Killis decided 
to convert. He became a Muslim on Monday, 18 Sha 'ban, 
356/966. ^ He then took up the study of the Qur' an and 
of Arabic grammar, in which he became very well versed. 

He served in Kafur' s court until the latter died. 

Because of Ibn Killis 's preferred status at Kafur' s 
court, Ibn al-Furat, who was the number one man during 
the Ikhshidl era up until the rise of Ibn Killis, made it 
impossible for the latter to stay at court. He even 
imprisoned him, but Ibn Killis bought his freedom and 
travelled to the Maghrib, where he joined the Jewish 
community. There is no evidence that he apostatized from 
Islam, a capital offense in Islamic jurisprudence. 17 

15 A non-Muslim was not allowed to become a vizier 
because one of the vizier's duties was to stand at the 
minbar during Friday prayers, a practice which a non-Muslim 
could not carry out. This was an important duty, for every 
Friday the oath of allegiance to the state was taken by the 
ra 'ivvah . 

16 Ibn Khallikan, Wafavat al-a 'van , VII, 28; Ibn al- 
Sayrafl, Al-Isharah , p. 92, provides the date. 

17 Sibt ibn al-Jawzi, Mir' It al-zaman . Volume IV 
(358-400 A.H.), Paris, Biblioth£que Nationale, MS arabe 
5866, . f ol 127r. 

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While in the Maghrib, he joined the administration of the 
Fatimid caliph al-Mu'izz in 363/973. With al-Mu'izz he 
moved to Egypt, where he was entrusted, along with 'Asluj 
ibn al-Hasan, with the kharai and the collection of all 
other taxes: al-hisbah , al-mawarith , al-abhas , al- 
shurtatayn, al-sawahil, and al-iawali . 18 This was the 
time when he introduced his equitable taxation method. 

He also handled the budget and the salaries of all state 
personnel . 

In his new capacity as a tax collector, Ibn Killis 
and his colleague introduced a new Egyptian currency 
which made any payment with the previously used Radi 
dinar equivalent to seventy-five per cent of the newly- 
coined dinar, called al-Mu 'izzi. ^ In making tax 

18 Al-Maqrizi, Itti 'az , I, 144-145. It has been said 
that whenever Ibn Killis went to a village in EGypt, he knew 
by glancing at it how many people lived in it, how much 
their income was, and how much tax they paid. He actually 
ran a census of all the villages and instituted a 
reassessment of the kharai so that no-one would suffer 
unduly. Cf. Muhammad ibn 'All ibn Muyassar, Akhbar Mi$r , 
ed. Henri Masse (Cairo: Institut frangais d' archeologie, 
1919), II, 45. 

19 Al-Maqrizi, Itti'az , I, 146: "Ya'qub and 'Asluj 

(continued. . . ) 


payments, people lost on the exchange, which was 
tantamount to a devaluation, while officials thereby 
replenished the coffers of the depleted bavt al-mal . The 
government collected taxes without accepting any delays 
or barter or hawalah (letter of credit) . Cash on the 
spot was the way Ibn Killis ran the affairs of the new 
regime in Egypt. It is related by al-Maqrlzi and by Ibn 
Zulaq that in one day Ibn Killis collected 220,000 dinars 
in kharai money from Damietta, TinnTs, and Ashmonin, only 
to be superseded by 'AIT ibn 'Amr al- 'Addas during the 
caliphate of al-'AzIz. 

Ibn Killis' s strict policy of tax collection 
provided the Fatimids with a full treasury which was much 
needed in building a solid administration and in 
consolidating their rule over the newly-acquired 
territories. Al-Maqrlzi relates that al-'AzTz, when he 
was ready to fight Haftakln, a general in Buyid service - 
this reference is to HaftakTn al-TurkT al-A'war, the 
slave of Mu'izz al-Dawlah ibn Buwayh al-Daylaml, who 

19 (... continued) 

refused to accept the kharai except in Mu'izzi dinars; thus 
the Radi dinar was devalued and in exchange transactions it 
lost one-fourth of its actual value. People lost on their 
liquid assets." 

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ruled al-Sham during the early part of al- 'Aziz's 

? n 

caliphate - his princes collected a tremendous amount 
of money to absorb the cost of the war. When al- 'Aziz 
wanted to return the money to its donors because it 
exceeded by far the projected cost, Ibn Killis protested 
by saying that the treasury needed to be full for the 
future so that the caliph would not have to count on 
donations from his loyal followers; rather, he could wage 
war with no strings attached, as it would be financed by 
his own treasury. 21 Thus, al-'AzIz had to back down from 
returning the gifts and instead channeled them into the 
bavt al-mal. 

Ibn Killis became ra' is al-dawawin or head of the 

bureaus at a point in his career when he was already 

running the caliph al-Mu'izz's affairs from the latter's 


palace. A few years afterward, in Ramadan 368/978, he 

was given the title of al-wazir al-aiall , the glorious 
2 2 

vizier. Ibn Killis outlived his master and was among 

20 Jamal al-Din 'All ibn Zafir, Akhbar al-duwal al- 
munqat:i 'ah, ed. Andr§ Ferre (Cairo: Institut frangais 
d'arch^ologie orientale, 1972), p. 31. 

21 Al-Maqrizi, Itti 'a? . 1 , 248. 

22 Ibn al-SayrafT, Al-Isharah . p. 92. 

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the few who were privileged to know that his sovereign 
had passed away before the news was officially announced 
by the caliph's son; in fact, the vizier was present at 
the death bed. He was then reappointed vizier by al- 
'Azlz in the same year (368/978) . 23 He thus became the 
first vizier of the Fatimids in Egypt. According to Abu- 
Hayyan al-Tawhldl, Ibn Killis's vizierate was "a 
substitute for a caliphate." 24 He was a vizier from 
arbab al-aqlam . and his power as unlimited as al- 
n Mawardl's wazlr al-tafwTd . 

Ibn Killis was a learned man whose court was the 
meeting place of lawyers, judges, linguists, and learned 
men of the day. In fact, a historian and contemporary, 
Ibn Zulaq 'All, referred to Ibn Killis as al-qad_I al- 
wazlr . 25 He must have had an education at the hands of 
the "ulama' who frequented the court, thus entitling him 
to be called qadi . He was also a fa gib of the Isma 'ill 

23 Muhammad ibn Salamah al-Quda'T, Tankh al Quda \i, 
Paris, Biblioth&que Nationale, MS arabe 1491, fol 118v. 

24 Quoted in Ibn al-Sayrafl, Al-Isharah, p. 91: 
wizaratuh niyabatan "an khilafah . 

25 Ibn Zulaq, Tarikh Mi^r wa fada' iluha , Paris, 
Biblioth^que Nationale, MS arabe 1817, fol 41v. 

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rite and wrote several books, of which his Al-Risalah al- 

wizariyyah was particularly widely read and was 
considered by the Fatimid propagandists ( da 'Is ) to be the 
best book for the interested layman. 26 Although a 
convert to Islam, he did much to help promote the 
Isma '111 cause. For example, it was to his credit that 
an Ismaflll mosque outside Bab al-Futuh in Cairo was 

Ibn Killis was a man whose insight and brilliance 
made it possible for him to build a centralized 
government for the Fatimids. "In Egypt the Fatimids 
started their rule by setting up the most centralized and 
hierarchical administration ever known in Islam [up until 
then], [and] the architect of this elaborate plan was 
Ya'qub b. Killis." 27 His most important contribution was 

26 Al-MaqrTzT, Itti 'az , II, 175. Ibn Killis' s work, 
which has not survived, is referred to by Ibn al-Sayrafl, 
Al-Isharah . p. 91. 

27 M. A. Sha'ban, Islamic History , Volume II 
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976), p. 199. A 
contemporary reference to Ibn Killis as the architect of the 
Fatimid administration is Muhammad al- 'Ayni, Dawlat Ban!' 1- 
_2.Abb5s wa al-TuluniyyTn wa' 1-FatimivvTn , Paris, Biblioth&que 
Nationale, MS arabe 5761, ff 172v-173r. 

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tax reform, especially of the kharai . He went about his 
reforms by personally visiting every village and by 
calculating how much potentially each village could 
contribute to the coffers of the central government and 
by matching his figures with what the government was 
actually getting. Where the population had increased, he 
increased taxes, and where it had decreased, he lowered 
taxes, thus relieving hardships for peasants, allowing 
them to improve their lot and to become more productive. 
His skill as financier helped replenish the treasury 
after it had been drained by wars. He was not an 
l extravagant man; he spent wisely, thus allowing for 

accumulation of capital, which was channelled to defense 
purposes if need be. Ibn Killis also had control over 
the expenditures of the army, and over recruitment and 
numbers . 

Ibn Killis' s power as a vizier was unlimited because 
of his personal ties as trusted advisor and friend of al- 
'Aziz. In many instances his word overruled that of the 
caliph himself. Many critics of the Fatimids during 

28 "It is said that the walT of Hims, Bakjur, during 

al-'AzTz's caliphate, asked al-'AzTz to grant him the 

(continued. . . ) 

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1 1 

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the time of al- 'Aziz did not hesitate to make their 
feelings known as to who ran the state. A poet who lived 
in Egypt, and who was a contemporary of al-'AzIz, Ibn 
Killis, and the army commander, Fadl, articulated the 
dismay of many Egyptians at the power which Ibn Killis 

Become a Christian, for Christianity is the true 

For all the signs of our times point in this 

So pronounce the Three in reverence and humility, 

And drop those not in their company, for they 
are unacceptable. 

For Ya'qub the vizier is the father, while al- 'Aziz 
is the son, and the holy spirit is Fadl.^ 

28 ( . . . continued) 

v n-layah of Damascus. Al-'AzTz responded by installing him. 
But, when he went to inform the wall of Ba 'albak about his 
fortune, the latter refused him the office because of a 
letter that Ya'qub ibn Killis had written to him, telling 
him to refuse Bakjur for the position. Bakjur was unable to 
assume his new office until Ibn Killis gave his blessing." 
Al-Maqrlzl, Itti 'az , I, 259. 

29 Although the poem infuriated Ibn Killis, al-'AzIz 
pardoned the poet; but Ibn Killis, exercising his power as 
yazir tafwTd, had him decapitated. Al-Maqrlzl, Itti 'az , I, 
298. The poem reads: 

(continued. . . ) 

The power of Ibn Killis was such that many persons 
thought that it was he who was actually the ruler, and not 
the caliph. Al-KirmanI's emphasis on and concern for the 
possibility that the caliph-imam not lose his authority 
as the man in command, as the one who should exercise 
absolute authority over his realm, with all of his 
assistants subordinate to him. Ibn Killis had become at 
least an equal to the caliph, if he did not exceed him in 
power. His creation and organization of many new bureaus 
merited him the title of architect of the Fatimid 
bureaucracy. His position was so strong that he was 
allowed to run the dlwans from his own home rather than 
from the traditionally-accepted place for them, the 
caliph's palace. The employees of these administrative 
bureaus worked in his own home and under his supervision. 
He oversaw the day-to-day work mechanics of the bureaus 
and made sure that salaries paid were not wasted. Only 

29 ( . . . continued) 

Tanad ar fa al-tana^ur dlnu haqqin . 
'Alavhi zamanuna hadha vadullu . 

Wa qul bi-thalathatin 'izzu wa jallu 
Wa 'afctil ml siwahum fa huwa ,*ifc,lu . 

Fa Ya *qubu al-wazlru abun, wa hadha 
Al- 'Azizu ibnun, wa rufru al-gudsi Fadlu . 


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once, in 373/983, when Ibn Killis was thrown in prison 

for an alleged conspiracy which cost the life of a friend 

of the caliph, did al-'AzIz order the removal of the 

bureaus from Ibn Killis 's home. They were then housed 

for a two-month period in the caliphal palace, their 

usual site, until Ibn Killis was reinstated. 3 ^ Ibn 

Killis was also the first vizier to have his name appear 

with that of the caliph on the tarraz or royal cloth 

which was spun for the use of the nobility by the 

official cloth-maker of the state. 31 No doubt his was a 

wizarat tafwld, for he had the initiative in all affairs 

of government. 32 It is interesting to note that Ibn 

Killis, because of his ability as an administrator, was 

also given, for the first time, the honor of having his 

own letterhead, which read: "From Ya'qub ibn Killis, 


vizier of amir al-mu'minin to so and so." 33 A letterhead 

30 Ibn Killis was proven not guilty and was 
reinstated as vizier; the bureaus were returned to his own 

31 Al-Maqrizi, IttrSz . I, 262. 

32 Hamza ibn al-Qalanisi, Dhavl tSrikh Dimashq 
(Beirut: al-Matba'ah al-Yasu 'iyyah, 1908), p. 32. 

33 Ibn Zafir, Akhbar al-duwal al-munqati 'ah , p. 39. 

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might not be novel in this day and age, but it was surely 
an innovation during Ibn Killis' s time. One might also 
argue that if Ya'qub ibn Killis held court for all the 
diwans , he should have had his own letterhead, which, 
however, would have been unprecedented in a caliph's 
court. Although many of his contemporaries begrudged Ibn 
Killis his power and success, many historians who called 

him a hypocrite did not fail to say that the affairs of 

- 34 

al- 'Aziz's empire ran smoothly and correctly. 

Ibn Killis remained as vizier until his death in the 
year 380/990. Even on his death-bed, he still had time 
to advise his master, al-'Aziz: "0 Commander of the 
Faithful, keep peace with Byzantium, when they keep peace 
with you; and keep the Hamdanids satisfied by constant 
contact." 35 With the death of Ibn Killis, the Fatimids 
lost a mastermind and a creator of an administrative 

34 Ibid . . p. 39. 

35 Quoted in Abbas Hamdani, "Byzantine-Fatimid 
Relations before the Battle of Manzikert, " Byzantine 
Studies , 1 (1974): 173. 

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system which was to outlive the Fatimid caliphate 
itself. 36 

Ibn Killis did not fit into al-Kirmanl's definition 

of a vizier in a theocratic state. In fact, it was 

viziers like him who had preceded al-Kirmanl who prompted 

the latter to write his treatise. As a devout Isma'IlI 

theologian, he did not, for obvious reasons, want to see 

the power of the imam being delegated. Ibn Killis' s 

vizierate was "a substitute for a caliphate." 37 The 

caliph not only delegated power but also gave him the 

authority to make major decisions, from waging war to 

changing the tax system. If al-Kirmanl's model had 

existed at the time of al- 'Aziz and if it had been 

rigidly pursued and absolutely binding, Ibn Killis would 

not have had all this power, nor would he have been able 


to run the affairs of the caliphate without being checked 
by the caliph himself. He would not have been able to 
initiate any fiscal reforms, nor would he have been able 
to assume the responsibility for creating new diwans and 
for reorganizing the caliphate into new administrative 

36 Al-'Aynl, Tarlkh dawlat banl' 1- 'Abbas , Paris MS 
arabe 5761, fol 173r. 

37 Ibn al-Sayrafl, Al-Isharah . p. 91. 


units- Any such reforms would have had to emanate from 
the caliph himself. The power to go to war if necessity 
dictated it, according to al-Kirmani's theory, should 
only be vested in the caliph-imam, not the vizier, who in 
the case of Ibn Killis continued to be considered a Jew 
by the people, and not an Isma'Tli. 

Although al- 'Aziz was a strong caliph, he chose to 
delegate power to Ibn Killis. He gave him a delegated 
ministry over the Fatimid realms, wizarat tafwid, because 
the Fatimids, upon moving their capital to Cairo, decided 
that it would be impossible for them to rule such a vast 
empire without sharing or delegating power to an 
administrator of their choice, which in practice diverged 
from al-Kirmani's theory. In the case of Ibn Killis, the 
Fatimid caliph al-Mu'izz and his son al- 'Aziz chose the 
right man for the job. 

The reorganization of the administration was due to 
Ibn Killis' s efforts. He alone deserves the name he was 
given as architect of the Fatimid bureaucracy. The chain 
of command the responsibility for caliphal policies 
rested in his hands. In turn he was responsible to the 
caliph and took orders only from him. He issued commands 
to the bureau chiefs and they in turn handed the orders 

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to the kuttab and from the kuttab to the huiiab and to 
the lowest-ranking officials. This pyramid-like concept 
of administration made it the most hierarchical 

administration in the Muslim world then. In his capacity 
as gadi and vizier, Ibn Killis was in touch with the 
-- a its aspirations and complaints, which were 

heard by him and by his bureau chiefs. The vizier in 
this respect was able to sway the masses of the populace, 
especially in rallying around the caliph and in defending 
the realm. 

Ibn Killis was the man for his time, as was our 

second example, Badr al-Jamall, whose vizierate occurred 
at a time when the future of the caliphate was in doubt. 
Abu Najm Badr al-Jamali al-Mustansirl al-Isma 'III (d. 

488/1095; vizier, 466-488/1073-1095) was born a slave to 
Jamal al-Dawlah ibn 'Ammar. An Armenian by origin, Badr 
al-Jamali was an ambitious young man who reached the 

highest office of state . 38 As a freed slave, he entered 
the service of the caliph in the army. He distinguished 
himself as a career officer and worked his way up until 


position he introduced a new element into the army, the 
Armenian contingent , which owed him its loyalty because 
of his ethnic background. At its zenith, this contingent 
numbered over 20,000 men. The new ethnic group was the 
key element in Badr al-JamalX' s ability to control the 
situation and re-establish peace and order in the realms 
of the caliphate after 466/1073. 

Although Badr al-JamalX's Armenian contingent was 
the reason for his success in re-establishing the peace, 
the addition of one more ethnic group to the army created 
problems for the Fatimids later on. Their army was 
composed of Turks, Sudanese, MaghribXs, and 
mercenaries.^^ Introducing the Armenians posed the risk 

39 Al-MaqrXzT, Itti *az , II, 311; Jere L. Bacharach, 

"African Military Slaves in the Medieval Middle East, " 

IJMES , 13 (1981): 486: "The most important change 

[introduced by Badr al-Jamall] was the use of large numbers 

of Armenians for infantrymen." For further discussion of 

the composition of the army during Badr al-Jamall' s time, 

see M. Canard, "Notes sur les arm^niens en fegypte £ l'6poque 

fatimide, " Annales de 1 ' Institut d' etudes orientales, 13 

(1955): 144; and Muhammad HamdX al-ManawX, Al-Wizarah wa'.l- 

wuzara' fX' 1- x asr al-Fatimt (Cairo: Dar al-Ma'arif, 1970), 

p. 179: "After Badr got rid of the bad elements in al- 

Mustansir's army, the only contingent that was left was the 

(continued. . . ) 

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of adding the potential for internecine conflict among 
the military cont ingents , which became a reality later in 
the history of the Fatimid state. 

Badr al-Jamali' s distinguished career as a commander 
of the army was matched by his administrative one. He 
was the governor of Damascus in 454/1062. 40 His 
governorship of that area did not last more than two 
years, due to a revolt against his strict application of 
the law. This episode did not by any means end his 
career. He was shortly afterwards (458/1065) renamed 
governor of "Greater Syria," from which he fled in 
460/1067 because of a military insurrection which 
ultimately led to a general revolt in the whole area. 4 ^ 

39 ( . . . continued) 

Armenian one, which originally came with Badr from al-Sham 
and were known as al-Juyushiyyah, in reference to amir al- 
j aysh Badr, and he gave them al-Husayniyyah quarter, which 
used to be for the blacks f lis-sud l . " 

40 Al-MaqrTzT, Itti x az , II, 268. 

41 Ibid. , II, 277, contains the reference to Greater 
Syria or bilad al-Sham ; Ibn al-Sayrafl, Al-Isharah , p. 58; 

Ibn al-Qalanisi, Dhayl , p. 93. For a complete biography of 
Badr al-Jamali as governor of Damascus and of al-Sham, see 
Khalil ibn Aybak al-Safadi, Tuhfat dhawl al-albab fl man 
hakam bi-Dimashq min al-khulafa' wa' 1 -muluk wa'1-nuwwab , 
Paris, Biblioth&que Nationale, MS arabe 5827, ff 131r-131v. 

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These two administrative positions, although short-lived, 
helped to prepare him to become a vizier of the type 
described previously as "vizier of the sword and the 
pen, " a combination of military and administrative 
career. He was called by al-Mustansir to assume the 
vizierate in 466/1073. 

Badr al-Jamall became vizier at the insistence of 
the caliph, whose reign had been plagued by internal 
strife and by struggles within the armed forces, mainly 
between the black contingents and the Turkish ones. Al- 
Mustansir' s reign was dominated by his mother, who was a 
black woman. 42 Under her influence, al-Mustansir 
installed her nominee as vizier. She was able through 
her man to run the affairs of the caliphate in the name 
of her under-age son. In her capacity as Umm al- 
Mustansir, she was able to increase the number of blacks 

42 Al-Sayyidah Rasd, the mother of al-Mustansir, was 
born a Sudanese slave and was owned by a Jewish merchant in 
Egypt named Abu Sa 'Id ibn Harun al-Tustarl. She was given 
to the caliph al-Zahir upon the latter's request for his 
enjoyment. During her husband's lifetime she showed no 
favor to Abu Sa 'Id and played no political role until her 
son al-Mustansir became caliph. See Ibn Muyassar, Akhbar 
Misr , II, 1; Jacob Mann, The Jews in Egypt and in Pale sti ne 
under the Fatimid Caliphs (New York: Ktav, 1970), p. 77. 

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(Sudanese) in the army and in her own personal 
contingent: "By purchasing black slaves as her special 
contingent ... , she favored them in government and she was 
extremely generous to them." 43 She was hostile toward 
the Turkish contingents, which created many problems for 
al-Mustansir . This led to increased tensions between the 
Turks and the newcomers, particularly the fact that the 

Turkish contingent looked down on the latter as slaves. 
Eventually a rift arose in the Fatimid armed forces. The 
Turks led the fight against the "slaves" ( *abld ) , a 
common name for black Africans. The country ultimately 
was paralyzed for twelve years as al-Mustansir witnessed 
the disintegration of his realm. The war between both 
groups started in 454/1062 and lasted into 466/1073, when 

Badr became al-Mustansir' s vizier. That year marked the 


beginning of the end of the caliphate's problems; at 
least with internal strife over for a while, the 
caliphate would last another century. 

The period of unrest in Fatimid history from 454- 
466/1062-1073 had been marked by the short-lived 
vizierates of sixteen men, which made any policy-making 

43 Al-MaqrizI, Ittijaz, II, 273. 

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or continuity impossible. All through this period the 
army was able to dictate to al-Mustansir its own 
candidates for the second-most important position in the 
caliphate, the vizierate. Because of the Turks' stature 
in the army, their numbers, and influence, and because of 
al-Mustansir' s weaknesses and the economic weakness of 
the time, the Turks were able to demand a raise in pay to 
meet the inflationary situation. The growing numbers of 
blacks in the army alarmed the Turkish contingent. 
According to al-Maqrlzi, the black contingents numbered 
about 50,000 men in 459/1066. 44 When finally the Turks 
and the blacks fought, the Turks won and pursued the 
blacks all the way to the Sa 'Id, deep into upper Egypt . 
Because they were victorious, the Turks insisted that 
they get their pay raises. But the treasury was already 
depleted, so al-Mustansir had to beg them to defer the 
pay raises; but they insisted. So he sold arms and 
ammunition in order to pay the Turks, even paying them 
with weapons instead of cash. With the Turks setting a 
precedent for other state employees to ask for increases, 
the caliph had to sell everything he owned to raise the 

44 Ibid. , II, 273. 

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money. The situation kept deteriorating until, in 

461/1068, food prices soared as food became scarce, the 
customs houses did not report income, and people were so 
desperate that they ate the bodies of their fellow men. 
War, famine, and disease made the death toll soar. 45 The 
infighting made it impossible for the ordinary peasant to 
plow the land and plant crops. As al-MaqrizI put it, the 
Nile flooded on time but there were no men to build the 
bridges or till the land. There were entire villages 
whose population died as a result of war or famine. 

Al-Mustansir, in a desperate move to save his 
caliphate, called upon Badr al-Jamali, who was then in 
Acre, to come and save him. He "promised him control 
over the country ( al-bilad ) . " 46 Before accepting the 

invitation, Badr had his own conditions for going to 


Egypt: first, that he would come with his own army; 
second, that he would completely wipe out the existing 

45 Ibn Zafir, Akhbar al-duwal al-munqati *ah , p. 75, 
speaks of the famine and plague that hit Egypt as the "years 
of Joseph," the seven lean years. 

46 Al-Maqrizi , Ittdjaz, II, 311; Ibrahim ibn Duqmaq, 
Kitab al-jawhar al-thaminah f I sirat al-khulafa' wa ' 1- 
salatln, Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale, MS arabe 5762, fol 
50r . 


Egyptian army; and third, that he would hunt down and 
execute former viziers whom he accused of contributing to 
the malaise of the state. 47 It is interesting to note 
that, though Badr al-Jamall did not include Egypt's 
princes on his list, when he reached Egypt he did not 
spare them either. Al-Mustansir accepted the conditions 
set by Badr. The latter, travelling by sea from Syria to 
Egypt, was taking a risk (it was winter) , but was on his 


Al-Mustansir in desperation had thus given up his 

authority, which was vested in him by Allah, as imam , to 
guide his own people. In fact, according to al-Kirmanl' s 
theory, he had abdicated his responsibility as a caliph. 

Badr al-Jamall arrived in Egypt with 10,000 of his 
own men. Landing at Damietta, he embarked on his scheme 
to set the country back on its feet. The first thing he 
did was to ask the merchants for a fixed tribute. While 
en route to Cairo, he was given provisions for his army 
by a rich man from Buhayra. Arriving at the outskirts of 
Cairo, he sent a secret messenger to inform the caliph of 
his arrival and to ask him to dismiss the Turkish general 

47 Al-Magrizi, Itti x az , II, 311. 

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Yaldikush. Al-Mustansir dismissed Yaldikush and Badr 
entered Cairo alone; his men followed him one by one so 
as not to give the impression of being conquerors but 
rather friends. Next, Badr began to keep the company of 
the princes of Egypt. He then arranged to have them all 
to a dinner party; when they left he sent his own escorts 
with them. On the way home, each one of these princes 
was killed. He then confiscated their properties, with 
which he replenished the coffers of his master . 48 Badr 
then turned to the army and destroyed those whom he 
suspected of misconduct in regard to the caliph and the 
ra 'iyyah . Previous viziers and a fair number of gadls 
were next on his list. This action was an attempt on his 
part to set the caliphal house in order. Internally, he 
tried to enforce the laws so that Egyptians would have an 
incentive to go back to the villages and to start 
replanting the land. He offered them a three-year tax- 

48 Ibid . , II, 291. Those princes, along with the 
upper echelons of the army, had been responsible for 
stripping the caliph of his gold, silver, arms, ammunition, 
personal belongings, and treasures of Dar al-Khilafah. Thus, 
Badr al-JamalT was only trying to reclaim part of what was 
stolen from the caliph's home. Badr himself was also a 
recipient of some of the stolen goods. 

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free income from the land if they cultivated it. 
Furthermore, as a vote of confidence in those who moved 
to devastated areas, he provided them with plenty of 
food, which was carried free of charge from faraway 
places. 4 ^ He thus repopulated these areas without the 


use of force. The tax incentive gave Egypt plenty of 


crops. Badr was a firm believer in the idea that after 
he subdued his enemies in the Aswan area and the Sa'Id, 
he would be able to rule Egypt. He used his enemy's 
strategy: "If you get lower Egypt, the seashore, and all 
the rural area, you can own Misr." 5 ^ Having accomplished 
his goals of setting the caliphal house in order, he 
turned to the enemies of his master in bilad al-Sham and 
reinstated the khutbah for al-Mustansir in Mecca and 
Jerusalem. Badr' s final step was to reorganize the 
bureaus and to control them through his own men as bureau 
chiefs. This gave him direct access to the bureaus and 
complete control over all branches of government. 

4 9 Ahmad ibn Yusuf al-Dimashql, Akhbar al-duwal wa 
athar al-uwal , Paris, Biblioth^que Nationale, MS arabe 4923, 

fol 118r . 

50 Ibn Yaldikush, quoted in al-Maqnzi, Itti 'az , II, 


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Badr al-Jamall's vizierate was wizarat tafwld. If 
Ibn Killis' s vizierate was called a "substitute for a 
caliphate," Badr al-Jamall's was even more so. Badr's 
powers exceeded those of Ibn Killis. The latter's powers 
had been bestowed upon him by a powerful caliph who did 
not feel threatened nor afraid to be undermined. In many 
ways Ibn Killis complemented al-'Aziz. Badr was 
delegated power by the weak al-Mustansir, who at that 
point in his career had nothing to delegate. He had lost 
everything he owned to his army, to his viziers, and to 
his bureau chiefs. He was unable to maintain his own 
ha ram : his mother, wife (or perhaps wives) , and daughters 
had to leave Egypt and live with friends in Baghdad. 51 
The height of degradation in an Islamic context occurs 

when a man cannot provide for or defend his own women. 


Badr could have usurped the power that al-Mustansir 
bestowed on him because al-Mustansir had no power to 
delegate. It was all stripped from him. For all 
practical purposes, Badr ruled Egypt unchecked. The 

51 Ibn Zafir, Akhbar al-duwal al-munqa^i 'ah , p. 75: 
"In 462 A.H., the daughters of al-Mustansir and his mother 
arrived in Baghdad fleeing from the famine [which afflicted 
Egypt] ." 


caliph was at his mercy and not he at the mercy of the 
caliph. There is no comparison, then, between Ibn 
Killis's position and that of Badr. Al- 'Aziz held the 
reins of state in his hands and no-one could have 
dictated any policy to him without his consent. Al- 
Mustansir, on the other hand, was a puppet in the hands 
of his vizier, Badr. He owed his temporal power to the 
man. He even owed him the continuation of Fatimid rule 
over Egypt and Syria. There is no parallel for this 
scenario in Fatimid history. 

After he re-established order and brought the 
country back to normal functions, Badr became the master 
of the Fatimid lands. He remained in office until his 
death at the age of eighty. He fell victim perhaps to a 
stroke which robbed him of his speech for the last year 
of his life. In all, he was in office for twenty-one 
years. His military valor and his reputation as a 
ruthless commander made it possible for him to reorganize 
the government and fire those who were accomplices to the 
crime committed against the people of Egypt and the 
state. The Fatimid administration started to function 
normally again. Badr was able to set the administration 
and the caliphate back to normal because he had his own 

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army of ten thousand men who obeyed his commands and 
defended his interests and those of the caliphate. 

Badr's fiscal and tax policy promoted productivity and 
the return to a normal way of life in Egypt. His policy 
of return to the land, mentioned earlier, yielded crops 
which were badly needed to feed the Egyptians. He was 
also able to change the taxes to reflect new demographic 
realities: many villages were completely empty because 
the inhabitants had either been killed in wars between 
the Turks and the blacks or had died of famine and 
epidemic diseases. 

As mentioned before, al-Kirmanl would have been 
shocked by the power that was vested in Badr al-JamalT. 
Not only was he made a vizier but he was given the title 

"prince of the realm," the title "supreme judge" ( gadl' 1- 


qudat ) , the "sword of Islam, " and the "shield of the 
imam." The theocratic state which al-Kirmanl had 
envisioned could not be created; the caliphs recognized 
that fact. Rather than lose full control over their 
realm, they opted to delegate power to one trustworthy 
individual who could run their internal and external 

affairs . 


Badr al-JamalT helped to create a workable 
administrative hierarchy by firing or killing those who 
took bribes or dipped into the Fatimid treasury or whose 
corruption was the cause of the populace's misery. Thus 
the vizier, with his "iron hand" policy, was able to 
bring about the administrative changes which eventually 
were responsible for the recovery of the caliphate from 
bankruptcy and corruption. The ra x ivvah were behind him 
because the famine which had befallen them in the period 
459-464/1066-1071 was due to the mismanagement of the 
caliphate by those who were in power. 

Although Badr al-Jamall was a freed slave, his 
administrative experience and his determination made him 
uncompromising as far as reforms were concerned. No-one 
was exempt, even his own son who rebelled against him in 
Alexandria. He too was brought to his knees. Badr' s 
integrity was a driving force behind his reforms. In all 
these respects he was the equal of Ibn Killis. 

In contrast to Ibn Killis and to Badr al-JamalT, 
Bahrain al-Armanl (529-532/1134-1137) was a newcomer to 
the Fatimid capital, Cairo. An Armenian Christian whose 
background was unknown to the Fatimids, Bahram succeeded 
in attaining the position of vizier without real effort. 

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Not much is actually known about his birth or what he did 
prior to becoming the vizier. Two theories existed 
concerning his socio-economic and political background. 
One theory stated that he was a prince who ruled for a 
very short period over the Armenians of Tell Bashir, 
northeast of Aleppo and was ousted because of a revolt. 52 
As a result he left Tell Bashir and moved to Egypt where 
he worked his way into the caliph al-Hafiz's court. The 
second theory described him as a khadim or servant, a 
eunuch who climbed the military ladder and became the 
head either of the Jayshiyyah or the Yanisiyyah army 
corps. Both groups were formed by Armenians, Badr al- 
Jamali and Abu'l-Fath Yanis, respectively. The majority 
of both corps were Armenians. Ibn Muyassar subscribed to 

the latter theory, while al-Maqrlzi felt that Bahram was 


of noble birth. Ibn Taghribirdi refers to Bahram as al- 
am ir without any hesitation. M. Canard suggests that 
Prince Bahram, after leaving Tell Bashir, must have 

52 Tell Bashir or Turbessel is located in a plain 
northeast of Aleppo and southeast of Ayntab between the 
Taurus Mountains and the Euphrates River. See M. Canard, 

"Un vizier chretien a l'epoque fatimite, " Annales de 
1 ' institut d*6tudes orientales (Algers) , 12 (1954): 88. 


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started his career as an officer in one of the two 
Armenian contingents before becoming the head of all the 
Armenians. He is also of the belief that Bahram was no 
eunuch but a descendant of a rather well-known and well- 
to-do family whose fortunes had changed over time. 
Furthermore, his two brothers lived in Egypt: Vassak was 
a governor and Gregory was the Armenian Catholics of 

c o 

Egypt. Be that as it may, Bahram was forced on al- 
Hafiz as a vizier by the army ( al-ainad ) , 54 

He was no choice of al-Hafiz, but he came at a time 
when the caliph or no say in affairs of state, so he was 
forced to accept the choice of the army. Although Bahram 
was not chosen by the caliph, the latter bestowed on him 

53 Ibn Muyassar, Akhbar Misr, p. 79; al-MaqrizI, 

Itti *az . III, 155-157; Yusuf ibn Taghribirdi, Al-Nuium al- 
zahirah, V, 242; M. Canard, "Un vizir chr^tien k l'6poque 
fatimite," p. Ill: "Ainsi finit ce vizir arm^nien, rest6 
chr^tien, frkre d'un Catholicos arm6nien, peut-£tre de 
grande famille arm^nienne, forc6 par les malheurs de la 
nouvelle patrie que les arm^niens s'6taient cr&e dans la 
region du Taurus et de l'Euphrate, ci venir chercher fortune 
en fcgypte. Son renom ne s'est pas born6 ci l'fegypte, car il 
6tait connu chez les francs en Palestine et chez les 
normands en Sicile." 

54 Ibn Zafir, Akhbar al-duwal al-munqati % ah , p. 97; 
and al-Maqrizt, Ittijlz, III, 156. 

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two honorific titles: "the sword of Islam" and "the crown 
of the caliphate." For a non-Muslim and an alien of 
sorts to be given such titles was indicative of al- 
Hafiz' s desperation over his state of affairs. He was 
ready to abdicate his imamate in favor of saving his 
temporal power. 

The circumstances that surrounded Bahram' s rise to 
the vizierate are as unclear as his background. 

Historians such as Ibn TaghribirdI suggested that as head 
of the Armenian corps ( muqaddam al-Arman ) , he was asked 
by the caliph's son, Hasan, to help him force his father 
to name him as his heir and to cede power to him while 
al-Hafiz was still alive. Al-MaqrTzI's version of the 
story was as follows. Hasan was a vengeful character who 

alienated the princes and tribal shavkhs . His bloody 


career as heir apparent led to a mass movement against 
him supported by large numbers of army contingents. The 
caliphal palace was surrounded and al-Hafiz, with his son 

55 Concerning the titles, see Ibn TaghribirdI, Al- 
Nuium , V, 242; and al-MaqrlzI, Itti 'az . III, 156. The 
caliph's contemplation of abdication is alluded to by Gustav 
von Grunebaum, "The Nature of the Fatimid Achievement, " 
Proceedings , p. 208. 

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Hasan, became prisoners. The besiegers demanded Hasan's 
head; al-Hafiz had to comply or else lose his own life 
and the lives of those who lived in the palace. He 
arranged for Hasan to be poisoned by one his private 
physicians. With the news of his death, the Sudan 
contingent of the army, supporters of Hasan, mutinied and 
forced the army ( al-ainad ) to flee. To avoid 
disintegration of the army, al-Hafiz called on Bahram to 
use his Armenian contingent and to subdue both sides. 

When Bahram arrived at the gates of the palace, the main 
army ( al-ainad ) hailed him as savior and carried him to 
the caliph to bestow on him the vizierate. Bahram was no 
choice of the caliph; he was imposed on him.^ 

Bahram was the second Armenian vizier to enjoy the 
title of wazlr al-savf or wazlr al-tafwi^ . 57 He was a 
military man who by becoming vizier combined two jobs 
which gave him great power. Because al-Hafiz had 
accepted his as vizier, he had to listen to the 
complaints of personal friends and disenchanted ami rs . 

56 For a complete account of Bahram' s rise to power, 
see al-MaqrizI, Itti 'az . III, 155-156. 

57 M. Canard, "Un vizir chretien k l'£poque 
fatimite, " p. 97. 

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The criticism voiced against the caliph was well-known to 
many historians of the Muslim world: how could a non- 
Muslim stand at the minbar with the imam and caliph 
during the religious holidays? Al-Hafiz got around that 
problem by appointing the gacjl al-gudat as a substitute 
for Bahram on such occasions. 58 Although Bahram was "an 

intelligent man, an organizer, and a good politician, 


he nevertheless was unwanted by the amirs whose powers 
were immense at that point in the history of the Fatimid 
caliphate. Bahram came to power thirty-five years before 
the Fatimid era ended. The mood that swept the caliphate 
was paranoia; anyone who was not a Muslim or from the 
established Egyptian aristocracy was suspect, especially 
if that person attained a high position, let alone the 
vizierate. At such a late date in the history of the 
dynasty, the caliph had but nominal powers; the true 
power rested in the hands of the vizier. 

Bahram' s Christianity, according to al-Maqnzi, made 
him the target of the ra 'iyyah ' s hatred. As a 

58 Mar'l ibn Yusuf, Kitab nuzhat al-nazirTn fi-m an 
wuJIiva Migr min al-khulafa 7 wa / 1-salatTn , Paris, 
Biblioth&que Nationale, MS arabe 5920, fol 16v. 

59 Al-MaqrlzT, Itti *az . III, 156. 

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politician, Bahram had full control over the realm and 
subdued every revolt against the state. He spent a large 
fortune on the army to reorganize it. In this respect he 
could not be criticized. Although Maqrizi argues that 
Bahram' s Christianity was his Achilles heel, I am 
inclined to believe that the Egyptian military 
aristocracy was responsible for creating obstacles for 
Bahram because they wanted al-Hafiz to bestow the 
vizierate on their candidate, the amir Ridwan ibn 
Walakhshi, a well-known scribe. The army unfortunately 
sabotaged their efforts and had their own man, Bahram, 
named as vizier. 

The downfall of Bahram nevertheless ultimately came 
at the hands of Ibn WalakhshT, who with the support of 
the amirs of Egypt again demanded the vizierate for 
himself. One possible explanation for this stubborn 
opposition is that the historians al-Maqrizi, Ibn 
Taghribirdi , and Ibn Muyassar all claim that Bahram 
invited around 30,000 Armenians, including his own 
brothers and relatives, to come and settle in Egypt. 
Furthermore, the influx of such large numbers of 
Armenians at a time when Egyptians were finding it 
increasingly difficult to maintain their standard of 


living (due in large part of loss of territory and 
revenue to the Crusaders) made Bahram and his people 
targets for the Egyptians' anger. Moreover, being rich 
Christians, the Armenians built a great number of 
churches and monasteries. They also practiced their 
religion outwardly, which led Muslims to become afraid of 
a Christian takeover which would take Egypt away from 
them, as was happening in Syria under the Crusaders. 

This led many of the a Wan to put pressure on the caliph 
to let Bahram go. Al-Hafiz wanted to appease the army, 
so he did not take heed; so the a Wan turned to Ridwan 
ibn Walakhshi, who called a jihad in the name of God to 
fight Bahram and his Armenian followers. Bahram, the 
Armenians, and the Fatimid army met Ibn Walakhshi, the 
contender for the vizierate, with all his supporters. 

When the two armies met, Ibn Walakhshi' s forces raised 
the Qur' an as a battle standard, and all the Muslims in 
the Fatimid army left Bahram and joined Ridwan. Bahram, 
with his Armenian contingents, fled to the Sa 'id, where 
they took refuge in a monastery. There Bahram remained 
until his death. Ridwan ibn Walakhshi marched victorious 

60 Al-MaqrlzT, Itti x az . III, 159. 


into Cairo, where al-Hafiz named him as vizier. Bahrain's 
headquarters ( dar al-wizarah ) and the Armenian quarter of 
the city were completely ransacked by Ridwan' s followers. 
This was the first time in the history of the vizierate 
that dar al-wizarah had been sacked. 61 

Of the three viziers considered here, Bahram fits 

least into al-Kirmlnl's scheme. Al-Hafiz had named 

Bahram his vizier and had given him absolute power by 

wizarat tafwld and the honorific titles of savf al-Islam 

and tai al-khilafah . The title, savf al-Islam , was 

equally extraordinary, for here was a non-Muslim being 

called the "sword of Islam." Al-Hafiz had become a 

• • 

puppet manipulated by different interest groups vying for 
power, such as the Turks, the Armenians, the Sudanese 
(blacks) in the army, and the princes who lived under the 
auspices of the caliph. 

In his model of the theocratic state, al-KirmanT 
insisted that at no time should the power of the vizier 
be equal to that of the caliph. According to him, the 
vizier should be the man to execute the wishes of the 
caliph and not the man to initiate the policy of the 

61 Ibid. , III, 160. 

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caliphate. Al-KirmanI's model vizier would be an 
Isma '111 who adhered to the da x wah , not a dhimml such as 


Even though the circumstances surrounding Bahram' s 
nomination were not ideal, Bahram nonetheless tried to 
reorganize the army in order to recapture the lost lands 
of the caliphate. His efforts at reforming the 
administration were sabotaged by princes (here, the land- 
owning elite with private armies) seeking power for 
themselves. THe power struggle among the elites was 
uncontrollable. Within the army, the split was too 
deeply entrenched for Bahram to eradicate it completely. 
Add to all this al-Hafiz's unhappiness with Bahram' s 
appointment, hence his non-supportive attitude towards 

his vizier. Al-Hafiz himself was in turn a very weak 


individual and was incapable of ruling. 

As mentioned before, Bahram also suffered from the 
lack of sympathy or support from the general population, 
who saw in his Armenian background a liability and in his 
Christianity the danger, perhaps unfounded, that Egypt 
would be lost to Dar al-Islam, as had happened to those 
parts of Syria which had fallen to the Crusaders. During 
Bahram' s vizierate there was little hope that the 

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caliphate could sustain any attack by the Crusaders nor 
withstand any more internal rifts. Bahrain's time offered 
little hope for anyone - regardless of background or 
capacity - to salvage the dying empire. 

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In light of what was presented in Chapters One and 
Two concerning the hierarchical and centralized nature of 
the Fatimid administration, it might be useful to compare 
it to both the Abbasid and Seljuk. systems. The latter 
flourished at the same time as the Fatimids, the Abbasids 
from 133-657/750-1258, the Seljuks from 447-591/1055- 
1194, and the Fatimids from 297-568/909-1172. In order 
for a comparison to be meaningful, it will be necessary 
to describe the two systems briefly, following now 
standard analyses. 

The Abbasid administration as a system was put to 
the service of the empire as an experiment. Neither the 
Abbasids nor their predecessors, the Umayyads, found in 
either the Qur'an or the Shari x ah a prescription as to 
how to administer the ummah . They had to resort to their 

own innovations in government: 

The Shari 'a..., by virtue of its character as 
the expression of God's Will, and by the common 
acceptance of its prescriptions and their 


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implications on the part of all Muslims , supplies 
the authority, sanctions, and moral basis for the 
unity and constitution of the Umma as a political 
entity. But neither in the Qur'an nor in the Sunna 
of the Prophet are there to be found precise 
instructions as to the forms and institutions by 
which the unity of the Umma as a political 
organization should be expressed and maintained. 1 2 

The Abbasids thus were pioneers in trying to form a 

bureaucracy whose main function was to coordinate all the 

institutions of the empire and to create new ones to cope 

with the ever-growing, ever-changing Muslim community. 

As pioneers in this experiment, the Abbasids created a 

system which was neither highly developed nor 

specialized. Limited by their inheritance of statecraft 

and administrative procedures from the Umayyads, they 

were slow to create their own institutions and were 

empirical in the methods and applications of their own 

procedures . ^ Equally inhibiting to the Abbasids were the 

1 H.A.R. Gibb, "Constitutional Organization: the 
Muslim Community and the State, " in Law in the Middle East^_ 
Volume I, ed. Majid Khadduri and Herbert Liebesny 
(Washington: Middle East Institute, 1955), p. 4. 

2 Al-RashTd, when announcing his plans for the 

succession, included a major restructuring of the 

(continued. . . ) 

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bureaucrats whom they had retained as hold overs from the 
Umayyad period and who were from the Umayyad-trained 
bureaucratic cadre. 

The Abbasids had an administration which for all 
practical purposes was limited in scope and operation. 
Although a number of dlwans were created, the majority of 
them specialized in the collection of taxes from 
different parts of the empire, such as diwan al-kharai, 
which was the most important bureau . 3 The collection of 

2 ( . . .continued) 

administration of the empire. He was to divide the empire 
between his two sons, al-AmTn and al-Ma'mun. "A most 
important stipulation was that the revenues and forces of 
each domain... be used only for the benefit of its 
respective region. Ma'mun would have complete autonomy and 

the final say on fiscal matters in his area. However, he 


was required to help his brother with military forces if the 
need arose." M. A. Sha'ban, Islamic History , Volume 11 
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976), p. 39. 

3 The diwan al-kharai was called simply "the diwan, " 

which was also synonymous with diwan al-sawad , as the Sawad 

was the richest area of the Abbasid Empire and yielded a 

great percentage of its income. For further information, 

see Dominique Sourdel, Le Vizirat abba side de 74 7 A 936 

(Damascus: Institut frangais de Damas, 1960), II, 590. 

Hilal al-Sabi' considered dTwan kharai al-Sawad , diwan 

(continued. . . ) 

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the kharai was divided among several bureaus concerned 
with the different provinces of the empire, such as diwan 
kharai al-Sham , diwan kharai al- x Iraqavn , diwan kharai 
al-Mashriq , diwan kharai Misr wa Ifriqivva wa' 1-Mawgil wa 
Arminva wa Azarbayaian wa' 1 -Madina wa Makkah wa' 1-Yaman . 
One gathers from the prominence of these bureaus that the 
Abbasid administration's most important function was the 
collection of taxes imposed on agricultural land, 
especially since the absolute majority of the inhabitants 
lived on such lands. THus land was the backbone of the 
economy and the main source of income for the caliphate. 
The other kind of income came from x ushr land, i.e., the 
land that gave ten per cent of its share of income to the 
state. 'Ushr land fell under the jurisdiction of a 
special bureau that collected its taxes, the diwan alji 
diva x or the bureau of x ushr land. Its function was very 
similar to that of diwan al-kharai . Both bureaus were 
controlled by the central administration and had problems 
because the money that was collected went straight from 

3 ( . . . continued) 

kharai al-Mashriq / and diwan kharai al-Maghrib as being the 
most important bureaus (usul al-dawawin ) . See Hilal al- 
Sabi', Kitab al-wuzara' , ed. A. Farraj (Cairo: Dar ahibba' 
al-kutub al- 'arabiyyah, 1958), p. 295. 


these bureaus to the coffers of the caliph, the bay t al__ 
mal or the public treasury, to which the great majority 
of collected funds were channelled. It is from this 
center that expenses in general and those of the army m 
particular were disbursed. 4 Thus the revenues collected 
were not used immediately to pay the expenses of running 
the dlwans but were sent to the main treasury. As a 
result the whole financial operation of the 
administration fell into the hands of the caliph, who 
according to his discretion saw to it that the money was 
allocated to the different bureaus, a situation which had 
the potential of crippling the administration if the 
caliph acted whimsically. 

Some bureaus, as in the case of the Seljuk 

administration, appeared and disappeared according to 


necessity, a phenomenon not so different from the 
ministries of our day and age. Other bureaus were 
constant features of the Abbasid administration. These 
were: diwan al-iavsh , or the bureau that took care of the 

4 "C'6tait le Bayt al-Mal, Tr6sor publique ou 6tait 
versee la plus grande partie de ces diverses contributions, 
qui alimentait A son tour les services des Depenses et de 
l'armee." Sourdel, Le Vizirat abba side , II, 594-595. 

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affairs of the army; dlwan al-nafaqat , the bureau of 
expenses, wherefrom the small employees of the court and 
administration received their pay; dlwan al-rasa' LI , from 
which official decisions were announced and whence 
correspondence with other sovereigns originated; dlwan 
al-tawql x or dlwan al-khatam (the privy seal) , and dlwan 
al-f add received letters and affixed the insignia of the 
caliph before letters were sent out or firmans announced. 
Other less important diwans included dlwan al-musadarin 
or the bureau which disciplined those who absented 
themselves intentionally or unintentionally from their 
employment or responsibilities; dlwan al-mawarlth , which 
dealt with settling inheritance issues; dlwan dur aJLz 
darb or the bureau of the mint; dlwan al-birr or dlwan 
al-sadaqat , the bureau for distributing the zakat or wagf 
money; 5 and dlwan al-mukhalif in , or the bureau which 
dealt with the confiscation of property of rebels. Many 
of these latter bureaus appeared and disappeared from the 

5 "Sous al-Ma'mun nous savons cependant qu' Ahmad b. 
Yusuf pergevait la sadaqa d'al-Basra et qu'une partie des 
sommes ainsi prelevees lui 6tait laissee en benefice." 
Ibid . , II, 593. 

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reign of one caliph to another. Such were the bureaus of 
the central administration. 

As for the provinces or the periphery of the empire, 
they were governed mainly by military personnel who 
administered land as fief holders in exchange for payment 
of salaries and in many instances as recognition for 
defending the lands of the empire form attack, chiefly 
from Byzantium. In this respect the Abbasids added to 
the fragmentation and the parcelling out of their own 
land to individuals, who were for the most part exempt 
from tax payments, as a way of compensating them for 
services rendered. The Abbasid caliphs, as Jacob Lassner 
points out, had a dilemma which "was the possibility of a 
challenge to the central authorities from an important 
regional sinecure.... The quintessential problem was how 
to ensure strong local rule while safeguarding the 
interests of the central regime ..." 6 To ensure and to 
safeguard against fragmentation of the empire, the 
central administration tried to rotate governors ( walls ) 
of provinces frequently and to assign to those posts 

6 Jacob Lassner, The Shaping of Abbasid Rule 
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980), p. 58. 

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persons loyal to the caliph or "close kinsmen." 7 This 
policy, as the Abbasids discovered, was not successful, 
for even members of the caliphal family declared their 
independence from the central government if they felt 
that they had been unsuccessful in attaining their 
demands. As such the policy concerning the provinces was 
not immune to failure. 

The staff of the administration came mainly from the 
scribal class, or kuttab, who were educated either in the 
Byzantine tradition or the Persian one, depending on 
which phase of the caliphate one examines. The kuttab 
were excellent calligraphers and possessed the skill 
which was a prime requirement for the profession. 

The bureaus or diwans included in their operations a 
majlis , or staff meeting, in which individuals 
responsible for running the affairs of the bureaus 
debated the validity of their decisions. 8 Side by side 

7 Ibid . , p. 58. As an example of trustworthy men 
being given iqta \ al-Muqtadir bi'llah gave land that was 
under the supervision ( muwakkalah ) of Zaydan to him as 
fiefs. "Zaydan' s share were villages near Kaskur and some 
land which yielded crops or profit in Basra." Hilal al- 
Sabi', Kitab al-wuzara' , p. 37. 

8 Dominique Sourdel, Le vizirat abba side , II, 600. 

m & 

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with the maialis there existed "an [internal] organism of 
control" called the zimam , or the section of the bureau 
which dealt with accountability. This feature, Sourdel 
argues, did not exists except in the theoretical work of 
Qudama ibn Ja'far. While a separate, autonomous dlwan 
al- zimam was a reality, there is no evidence of this type 
of control within each bureau. 9 The fact remains that in 
actual practice the Abbasids used three diwans to run the 
empire: the diwan al-insha' or chancellery, the dlwan al- 
zimam, and the diwan al-khatam . 10 

As Goitein has pointed out, the Abbasids were the 
first to delegate power to one individual from the 
scribal class whose trust won him the position of an 

I associate: the vizier. 11 This post was created by the 

9 Ibid . While Sourdel argues that dlwan al- zimam 
was a separate diwan, Hilal al-Sabi' spoke of it in the 
plural as dawawin al-azimmah , thus allowing the possibility 
of the existence of more than one diwan, but as separate 

I entities. Cf. Hilal al-Sabi', Kitab al-wuzara' , p. 89. 

10 Dominique Sourdel, Le vizirat abbaside, II, 601. 

11 Although a few viziers were not from the scribal 
class, the tendency remained during the whole Abbasid era to 

! choose them from that class. Cf. Tawfiq Sultan al-Yuzbaki, 

Al-Wizarah: nash' atuha wa tatawwuruha fl al-dawlah al- 
'Abbasiyyah (Baghdad: Matba'at al-Irshad, 1970), p. 124. 

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Abbasids but not clearly defined by them. The 
prerogatives and duties of the vizier varied greatly. 
Some viziers were administrators under the direct 
authority of the caliph, while others were dynastic 
sultans without caliphal authority. One should not 
forget that as pioneers in the field the Abbasids 
experimented and thus varied in the actual way they did 
their work, but finally the idea was so successful that 
it became an integral part of all the administrations 
that followed. 

The Abbasid vizier was chosen to head the 

bureaucracy and was directly responsible to the caliph. 

With the latter's blessing, he was able to run the 

affairs of the empire. One of the tasks incumbent upon 

the vizier was the responsibility for running all the 

bureaus without being in charge of any one in 

particular. 12 He supervised 

the acts of the secretaries of the government 
offices F diwans 1 , since they are in a fiduciary 
position towards Moslems in respect of what they 
receive and disburse from their property; they 
should therefore be kept strictly to rule, all 

12 Dominique Sourdel, Le vizirat abba side , II, 605. 

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irregularities in their receipts or expenditures 
restrained, and all excesses punished. 13 

He was supposed to give a detailed outline of events, to 

register the orders of the sovereign, and to see to it 

that orders were transmitted to the appropriate 

administrative units through the intermediary of diwan 

al-qasr , or bureau of caliphal affairs. 14 

Whereas the vizier was responsible for originating 

or transmitting the nominations of individuals for 

positions in the administration through the chancellery, 

he sent direct orders for allocation of money to the 

public treasury. Other instructions involving money 

matters were sent to the bureaus of kharai and diya ' . 

The vizier also had the prerogative to send orders to 

diwan al-jaysh and to diwan al-nafagat for the payment of 

administrative personnel. 15 The vizier was also 

responsible for diwan al-khatam , where his name appeared 

in many cases alongside the caliph's, thus taking full 

responsibility for much of what was done in the empire. 

13 H.F. Amedroz, "The Mazalim Jurisdiction in the 
Ahkam Sultaniyya of Mawardi," JRAS , (July 1911): 639. 

14 Dominique Sourdel, Le vizirat abbaside, II, 605. 

15 Ibid . , II, 605. 


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In essence the vizier was an equal of the caliph and in a 

sense shared the domain of the caliphate with him. THe 
Abbasid vizier was able to groom his sons or grandsons 
for the position. 

It was Harun al-RashTd' s (173-194/789-809) policy 

towards the Barmaki family that set the precedent for the 

vizierate to become hereditary, a tradition which had 

both a negative and a positive impact on Abbasid rule. 

Harun al-Rashid' s involvement in the wars against the 

Byzantines during his father's reign and then during his 

own, where he found himself in dangerous situations vis- 

a-vis the enemy, decided on freeing 

himself from all administrative responsibilities 
and [taking] personal charge of the army. For 
the administration of the whole empire, he fell 
back on his mentor and longtime associate Yahya 
b. Khalid b. Barmak, a man whose loyalty, and 
that of his family, to the Abbasids was absolutely 
beyond any shade of doubt. 16 

16 M. A. Sha'ban, Islamic History, Volume II , p. 28. 

Al-Rashid called Yahya al-Barmakf "father" because the 

latter's wife was al-Rashid' s wet-nurse. "[Al-Rashid] told 

him [Yahya] : Oh father, you have been my mentor and you have 

advised me wisely. I [now] invest in you the authority over 

my people and I have placed this burden on you. Judge [the 

(continued. . . ) 


Yahya al-Barmaki trained his sons to run the Abbasid 
administration and one after another they took sole 
responsibility, with full executive powers, to accomplish 
their task. That the Barmakids were qualified men could 
not be doubted. They were well-trained administrators 
and well-respected individuals. They were loyal to the 
Abbasids and they had the interest of the caliph at 
heart. Such qualities were shared among them all. 17 

The hereditary vizierate provided continuity in 
policies and it encouraged the vizierial families to 
invest their energies in creating and maintaining an 
administrative apparatus which would outlive them and 
from which their own children would benefit by grooming 

16 ( . . . continued) 

ummah] as you see fit. Employ whomsoever you want, dismiss 
whom you please, and impose whom you see fit.... I am not 
going to hold you accountable in any way." Quoted without 
citation of source by Muhammad Ahmad Baraniq, Al-Wuzara' al- 
'Abbasivvun (Misr: al-Matba'ah al-Namudha jiyyah, n.d.), p. 
62; YuzbakT, Al-Wizarah , p. 58, reproduces this speech and 
cites Tabari, Tarlkh al-rusul wal 7 -muluk (Bulaq: Bulaq 
Press, n.d.), X, 50, and later sources. 

17 Dominique Sourdel, "Le valeur litt^raire et 
documentaire du livre des vizirs d' al-GahsiyarT d'apr&s le 
chapitre consacre au califat de Harun al-Rashid, " Arabica, 2 
(1955) : 196. 

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them for the vizierate. This dynastic tradition had its 

negative aspects too. It strengthened the vizierial 

families by allowing them to accumulate wealth and to 

abuse their power by creating nuclei of acquaintances and 

friends in sensitive positions. In so doing they were 

able to control the caliph. They had him at their mercy 

and the roles were reversed: instead of his being the 

chief executive and they his delegates, they became the 


executives and he the executor of their wishes. Thus, 
the Abbasid vizierate became an inherited position with 
extraordinary privileges and wealth, so much so that when 
the Abbasid caliph' s power and prestige dwindled, the 
vizierial dynasties had ample support among the ra 'iyyah 
and the iavsh and had the techniques or expertise to run 
the empire, plus the power to command, which helped them 
create their own sultanates. These dynasties had all it 
took to become independent entities, except for the 
legitimacy of being the rulers commanded by God to run 
the affairs of the kingdom. 

As mentioned before, the Abbasids followed a policy 
of recruiting viziers generally from the kuttab class. 



18 M. A. Baraniq, Al-Wuzara' , pp. 66-67. 

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They refused to choose their viziers from among the 
'ularna' . 1 ^ The x ulama' , in contrast to the bureaucrats, 
were not government employees . They lived on the gadaqat 
or zakat of pious Muslims. They often belonged to one 
mosque school or another where they studied the Qur' an 
and had a set interpretation of it. "As judges, notaries 
and administrators of public or trust properties, the 
school members acquired positions of social as well as 
religious leadership." They were the true voice of the 
people and stood as spokesmen of the ra x ivvah at the 
caliph's court. In their eyes, as Ibn Hanbal argued, the 
x ulama' had the power to lead the ummah (and not the 
Abbasid caliph) . "It was the duty of the x ulema to 
revive and preserve the law, and the duty of all Muslims 
'to command the good and forbid the evil,' that is, to 
uphold the law, whether or not the caliphate would 

p -I 

properly do so." 

Thus the Abbasid administration was directed by the 
vizier and his family, a situation which created a 

19 Al-YuzbakT, Al-Wizarah , p. 124. 

20 Ira Lapidus, "Separation of State and Religion in 
Early Islamic Society," I JMES , 6 (1975): 369. 

21 Ibid . , p. 383. 

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dynastic system replacing the caliph for all practical 

purposes and leading to the disintegration of the 

caliphate into several kingdoms. 

As for the Seljuk administration, it was based on 

the Samanid and Ghaznavid models, the offspring of 

ancient Persian administrative models: 

The Seljuks were primarily a military state 
geared for war and expansion which superimposed 
a foreign ruling element upon the indigenous 
population whose elite were called upon to 
manage the affairs and organization of govern- 

p p 

ment and administration. 

In this respect they were continuing the tradition of the 
two above-mentioned empires. As a Sunni dynasty, the 
Seljuks tried to build an administration which was 
"compatible with the basic tenets of the Islamic 
ideology." 23 Their theory of state was thus based on 
both the Islamic and the old Persian one. 24 It was Nizam 

22 Carla Klausner, The Seliuk Vezirate: a Study of 
Civil Administration (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University 
Press, 1973), p. 5. 

23 Ibid., p. 5. 

24 A.K.S. Lambton, "Aspects of Saljuk-Ghuzz 
Settlement in Persia," Islamic Civilization, 950-1100 , ed. 
D.S. Richards (Oxford: Cassirer, 1973), p. 106. 

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al-Mulk, the vizier of the Seljuk sultan Malik Shah 

(1072-1092) , who was responsible for reconciling both 

theories of state. According to him, 

temporal stability was guaranteed by the protec- 
tion of religion.... "The foundation of kinship 
( dawlat ) and the basis of dominion consist in 
the observation of the laws of God, glory and 
exaltation be to Him, and in giving precedence 
to the raising of the banners of religion and the 
revival of the signs and practices of the Shari x ah 
and in respecting and honoring the savvids and 
< ulama / who are the heirs of the Prophet." 25 

On the other hand, Nizam al-Mulk went on to say that "God 

chooses someone from among the people in every age and 

adorns him with kingly virtues and relegates to him the 

affairs of the world and the peace of His servants." 26 

The power of the sultan was absolute and required no 

authorization. In him the administration was 


The Seljuks tried to establish the 

25 A.K.S. Lambton, "The Internal Structure of the 
Saljuq Empire," The Cambridge History of Iran , Volume V, ed 
J.A. Boyle (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968), p 

210 . 

26 Quoted in ibid . , p. 210. 

27 Ibid., p. 211; A.K.S. Lambton, "Aspects of Saljuq* 
Ghuzz Settlement in Persia," p. 106. 


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importance of the sultan as the absolute ruler, "head of 
the political institution, " by making him the "shadow of 
God upon earth, " a concept well-entrenched in the Persian 
idea of kingship. 28 The hordes of Turkmen did not share 
this concept, especially the "princes, [who considered 
the sultan] merely as Primus inter pares, " and were not 
pleased by the newly acquired image of their leader. 29 
The theory behind their action was to legitimize the 
sultan as the head of the ummah as well as the political 
head of the state: 

The power of the Sultan was in theory delegated 
by the Caliph, but when the latter ceased to be 
effective and immediate source of this power, 
as was the case by the fifth century A.H., the 
tendency arose to ignore the historic imamate 
and to regard the Sultan as the shadow of God 
upon earth, appointed by Him and directly 
responsible to Him without intermediary in the 
person of the Caliph. 80 

28 A.K.S. Lambton, "The Internal Structure of the 
Saljuq Empire," p. 209. 

29 Claude Cahen, Pre-Ottoman Turkey , trans. J. Jones 
Williams (New York: Taplinger, 1968), p. 25. 

30 A.K.S. Lambton, "Quis Custodiet Custodes : Some 
Reflections on the Persian Theory of State," Studia 
Islamica, fasc. 5, pt.l (1956): 127. 

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The Seljuks early on kept the Abbasid caliph as head of 
the empire solely to lend legitimacy to the sultan as 
spiritual leader of the Muslim community. The caliph 
gave them the unprecedented honor of becoming his 
lieutenants all over Dar al-Islam. 31 Thus the power of 
the Seljuks, unlike that of the Buyids, rested upon the 
Shari 'ah . In attempting to live by the laws of orthodox 
Islam, the Seljuks were capable of preserving the 
religious life of the community and of giving a sense of 
continuity in the Muslim lands. 32 Having attained the 
blessing of the caliphs at the onset of their sultanate, 
the Seljuks soon realized that they did not actually need 
the caliph to give them legitimacy and concentrated their 
efforts on drawing the religious class to back them. It 
was the 'ulama' trained by the Seljuks in the numerous 
madrasahs who ultimately gave them legitimacy as the 
leaders and rulers of the Muslim community. 

The Seljuks had hoped to create an administration 
which was an improvement on the previous ones, especially 

31 Marshall G.S. Hodgson, The Venture of Islam , 3 
vols. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974), II, 43. 

32 A.K.S. Lambton, "The Internal Structure of the 
Saljuq Empire," p. 207. 


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by avoiding the mistakes of their predecessors. Every 
dynasty that came to rule the areas claimed to be an 
improvement on what preceded it. In this the Seljuks 
were no exception. They hoped still to achieve such an 
aim, as Carla Klausner argues, "by renewing the 
association of government and the religious institution, 
and [by] controlling the new education system, and [by] 
establishing the primacy of civil administration, which 
had disintegrated under the last Buyid rulers." 33 The 
Seljuks' dream was to bring about a relationship between 
the sultan or the government and the religious authority 
in the hope of creating an administration whose 
principles were Sunni and whose values were deeply 
entrenched in orthodox Islam. They hoped to have such an 
administration by creating madrasahs that would graduate 
religious men and administrative elites. Thus, 
administrative positions were to be filled from religious 
school graduates. Nizam al-Mulk, the famous vizier, in 
creating the Nizamiyyah schools, had hoped to inculcate 
the perfect practices of the Sunni intelligentsia in 
administration. In many ways such an administration was 

33 Carla Klausner, The Seliuk Vezirate , p. 5. 

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envisaged as being able to attract the support of the 

average Muslim and thus give the Seljuks the sense of 

being accepted as legitimate rulers. The use of 'ularna' 

or religious class in government was a ploy to give 

"juridical acceptance of the sultan as the agent of 

political and military administration alongside the 

caliph as head of the religious institution only...."^ 4 

A.K. Lambton, on the other hand, argues that Nizam al- 

Mulk's purposes in initiating such a movement were 

presumably to provide government officials 
trained in the tenets of orthodoxy who would 
replace the former secretarial class and 
implement his political policies; and secondly, 
by using the 'ulama' educated in the madrasahs , 
he hoped to control the masses and combat the 
spread of the Isma'IlI sect, which had begun 
to threaten the existence of the state. 

The Seljuks' introduction of the madrasah -trained 

Jjjlama into the administrative cadre and the support 

that the government got from incorporating them led to 

the compromising of this elite group, which normally was 

34 Ibid . , p. 6. 

35 A.K.S. Lambton, "The Internal Structure of the 
Seljuk Empire," p. 214. 

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out of the reach of government. The Seljuk 
administration co-opted the 'ulama' , paid them salaries, 
and created a dlwan to take care of their affairs. 36 The 
qadls , as part of the religious elite, were entrusted by 
the Seljuks "to watch over the religious institution on 
behalf of the sultan, and this perhaps marks a further 
stage in the subordination of the religious institution 
to the political institution." 37 The qadi headed the 

36 A.K.S. Lambton, "Quis Custodiet Custodes, " pt. 1, 
p. 135; Carl Brockelmann, History of the Islamic Peoples , 
trans. Joel Carmichael and M. Perlmann (New York: Capricorn 
Books, 1960), p. 177. As Carla Klausner notes: "despite the 
bitter warnings and better judgement of some of their 
members, the 'ulama' were effectively incorporated within 
the framework of Seljuk government, and religious affairs 
were placed under the general supervision of the Vezir. To 
some extent the 'ulama' continued to protect the interests 
of the people; but insofar as there was a tendency for them 
either to associate with and join the bureaucracy or to 
acquire extensive estates and become assimilated to the 
land-owning class, their function as spokesmen of the people 
was undermined and weakened." Klausner, The Seljuk 
Vezirate , p. 25. As is well known, al-GhazalT himself also 
saw that the position of the 'ulama' would continue to be 
compromised if they kept on lending their services to the 
temporal authorities. 

37 A.K.S. Lambton, "Quis Custodiet Custodes," pt. 1, 
p. 135. 

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diwan al-awgaf or pious endowments where he saw to it 
that the income, especially that from rental property, 
was spent on the support of the new madrasahs , although 
some of it went to the support of mosques, hospitals. 

hostels, etc . 38 

Thus, the Seljuks' use of the religious 

elite in the civil administration set the precedent for 
their use by the Ottomans and even found its way into the 
Arab regimes of today. The hope of the Seljuks was to 
strengthen their administration by the use of the x ulama' 
in the bureaucracy and thus to counteract the strength of 
the military establishment and to lessen the chance of 
decentralization, which was inherent in the Turkish model 
of state. Different members of the Seljuk family and 
tribe shared rule of the empire, thus parcelling out the 
land among themselves. They also shared the 
administration of their realms with the military elite, 
to whom igta x land was originally given as compensation 
for their efforts. The x ulama' , who were supposed to be 
a stabilizing influence and a centralizing factor, were 
also beneficiaries of the iqta x system. 

As the x ulama' scholars became increasingly 

dependent on the waqf endowments, they found 

38 Marshall Hodgson, The Venture of Islam , II, 51. 

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themselves in a position largely independent 

but complementary to the amirs , as the chief 

alternative beneficiaries of the land revenues 

and to that degree they were prepared to sanc- 

3 Q 

tion the system as a whole. 

The igta x system created problems for the Seljuks which 
eventually led to the disintegration of their sultanate. 
Not the least of these problems was decentralization 
brought about by the distribution of land or land 
revenues to civil and military officers, the majority of 
whom were entrusted with the civil administration of 
their igta x . The icrta * system emerged during the tenth 
century because of economic needs. It was "in response 
to the state's dominant need to finance its operations 

and to pay its civil and military officers.... 

ii 4 0 


the Seljuk era, it was apparently difficult to make clear 
distinctions between "military" and "administrative" 
igta x s and to distinguish even between the different 

forms of i 

'. What is known is the fact that once a 

military leader was assigned an igta * and the right to 
collect the taxes of an area, it became easy for him to 

39 Ibid . , II, 51-52. 

40 A.K.S. Lambton, "The Internal Structure of the 
Sal jug Empire," p. 231. 


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establish his independence. Thus, the military officers 
became responsible for the civil administration of their 
ic[taj_, which eventually spelled decentralization of the 
government and secession from the empire at the leisure 
of the igta x holder when he found it expedient to do so. 
Payment by igta ' was even given to the highest civil 
officials of the state, such as the viziers. 41 In this 
respect, when the land was parcelled out, the central 
government had no device by which to maintain control 
over the "administrative" igta * except - in case of 
injustice or rebellion - the threat of superior force. 42 
Thus, during the time of strong sultans, such as Malik 
Shah or Tughrul Beg, the authority of the central 
government was evident. Decentralization and political 
disintegration caused by rebellion of igta ' -holders or 
their secession came about under the rule of weak 

The Seljuks created a bureaucracy or civil 
administration with five major diwans : drwan al-a 'la , or 
the vizierate; dlwan al-istifa' , or the bureau which 

41 Ibid . , p. 238. 

42 Ibid . , pp. 237-238 

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dealt with finances and with keeping of accounts; diwan 
_al-tuqhra , which included in it diwan al-insha' (the 
chancellery of the empire and the home of the official 
dispatches and correspondence of state) ; diwan al-ishraf , 
which took care of the supervision of the collection of 
taxes and revenues and their distribution; diwan al- 
_ar which was responsible for paying the standing army 
and "recording the grant of iq^a x s to the military 
class . " 43 

These Seljuk bureaus were staffed by graduates of 
the Nizamiyyah school and other madrasahs . Alongside the 
bureaus, the Seljuks had a provincial administration 
which was in several respects independent of the central 
bureaucracy. The central bureaucracy was unable to 
dictate its policies in many instances to the provinces. 
They were "only able to maintain the balance of power 
between the military and civil authorities," 44 because 
side by side with the civil administrator or governor of 
the province there was a military governor who, more 

43 Carla Klausner, The Seljuk Vezirate, p. 18; A.K.S. 
Lambton, "The Internal Structure of the Saljuq Empire," p. 

44 Klausner, The Seljuk Vezirate , p. 20. 

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often than not, was responsible for the civil 
administration too. In exchange -as mentioned above - 
for a salary in many instances he got the civil 
administration of a province, thus giving him the power 
to levy taxes and entitling him "to all the revenue of 
the land, and the civil officers became his direct 
administrative subordinates."^ 

The Seljuks attempted to form a centralized system 
of administration but, on the other hand, were keen on 
keeping the Turkish system of parcelling out the land 
among the extended members of the ruling family, and by 
giving out military igta x s to their deserving officers. 
The two systems of centralized bureaucracy and the 
parcelling out of the land, which spelled 
decentralization, were parallel yet contradictory. A 
bureaucratically ideal system was compromised by 
political tradition. Thus, one system in essence negated 
the other. 

The Seljuk administration was innovative in many 
respects, yet such new ideas in government were tested 
and sometimes caused grave consequences for the state. 

45 Ibid . , p. 20. 

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One example was the creation of the diwan for qadls , 
which made the latter salaried personnel and thus 
compromised their ability to be honest arbitrators for 
the ra x ivvah as a whole. Being co-opted into the system 
lessened their respectability and their effectiveness 
with the masses whose interests they were supposed to 
safeguard. Although the Seljuk sultans intended to 
create a system that would be guided by Islamicate 
principles and would be the best suited for the era, 
their system had inherent weaknesses which will be 
discussed below, when a comparison will be drawn between 
their administration and that of their nominal overlords, 
the Abbasids, and that of their contemporaries, the 
Fatimids . 

The political and administrative organization under 
the Fatimids had its strength in operating from a single 
center, the capital at Cairo, which "was designed to be 
strictly the administrative and military capital of the 
regime ." 46 While that was the case with the Fatimids, 
the Seljuks, on the other hand, had an inherent weakness 
in the structure of their government, namely a tendency 

46 M. A. Sha 'ban, Islamic History , Volume II, P- 198 * 

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towards decentralization and division. This tendency is 
mainly seen "in the Turkish conception of leadership as 
vested in the entire family." 47 The Turkish conception 
of leadership was quite different from the Persian idea 
of the absolute monarch. "The Turkish leaders continued 
to think of the empire as the property of the whole 
family." 4 ® To them, all members of the extended family 
and tribe shared in running the sultanate. The 
administration of provinces was assigned to members of 

the extended family, which eventually led to the 
breakdown of the empire into separate dynasties, such as 
those of Rum, Syria, etc. The Fatimids, however, 
believed that only the caliph, with the help of the 
vizier who was the caliph's choice, was vested with the 
authority to run the imamate. By definition, the imamate 
could not be shared because it was not an office but an 
authority designated by God to one man as the chosen 
person to lead the ummah; thus, one could argue that 
there was no division of power in the Fatimid caliphate. 
The members of the caliphal family did not participate in 

47 Klausner, The Seliuk Vezirate , p. 20 
8 Ibid . , p. 9. 

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any administrative capacity and incidents where power 
struggles occurred were very few. A struggle did arise 
between the sons of the Caliph-Imam al-Mustansir at his 
death in 487/1094 in which his eldest son sought to take 
over the imamate from his brother, who had been named by 
al-Mustansir as al-Musta 'll bi'llah, the new imam. 49 

The Abbasid administration, in contrast, had as its 
ultimate aim the centralization of power. But because in 
many ways the Abbasids were pioneers in creating new 
administrative units and because they were also heirs to 
the administrative legacies of the Byzantines and 
Persians, they were unable to manage completely the 

49 The sons of al-Mustansir were Nizar, 'Abd Allah, 
Isma'Il, and Ahmad, his youngest, who became al-Musta 'll 
bi'llah. It was Nizar who showed anger against his brother 
and refused to give him allegiance ( bay 'ah ) and went to 
Alexandria, where he staged a rebellion. He protested by 
saying: "Even if I am cut into pieces I refuse to give him 
allegiance." Nizar lost his life in 488/1095 at the hands 
of al-Afdal ibn Badr al- Jamal! . This also started the 
schism in Isma'Ilism between the Nizariyyah and the 
mainstream. See al-Maqrlzi, Itti 'az . III, 11-14. See also 
Ibn Muyassar, Akhbar Misr , p. 35. 

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situation as they wished. 50 

Moreover they were forever 

experimenting with new ways of administering their 
realms. The caliph, although vested with the power to be 
the sole and absolute ruler, was unable to hold on to his 
prerogatives and rights because he delegated authority to 
families whose actual power equalled and paralleled his 
own, such as the Barmakids and the Furats, not to mention 
the Buyids and Seljuks. Thus the Abbasids' weakness in 
attaining a centralized system of government stemmed from 
their policy of non-commitment to the newly-created 
bureaus or administrative units. As Sourdel explains, 
bureaus appeared and disappeared, sometimes for no 
apparent reason. 

Unlike the Seljuks and the Abbasids, the Fatimids 
did not believe in the military fief system. They did 
not depend on this type of system nor any other type of 
indirect administration. For land tax collection, they 

50 "Si la quality de kitab 6tait reguli^rement 
requise du vizir, c'est qu'il avait pour premiere tache de 
diriger les nombreux services a dmini strati f s qui r6gissaient 
1' empire abbaside et qui h£rite en partie de l'epoque 
umayyade, continuaient de tendre vers une centralisation et 
un 6fficacit6 qui ne furent jamais pleinement r6alisees." 
Dominique Sourdel, Le vizirat abbaside . II, 580. 

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used the qabalah system, in which a given district paid a 
fix sum of money by contracting it out. The original 
system, which was devised by the Abbasid caliph al- 
Ma'mun, was greatly modified by the Fatimids. They 
auctioned the contracts to the highest bidder, and the 
contractors did not have to belong to the community 
concerned. Moreover, the contractors did not have to fix 
the canals and dikes in their tax-farming areas. 51 Tax- 
farming was not a hereditary position, yet some tax 
collectors were able to ensure their sons such 
employment. In many ways, the modifications were an 
improvement, but not in others, especially the question 
of not fixing irrigation canals, which meant that the 
yield of the land was reduced and, in turn, that taxes 
paid into the treasury were reduced. Al-Maqrlzi laments 
this situation in his Iqhathat al-ummah fi kashf al- 
qhummah . 

Again, auctioning the position of tax collector 
avoided the hereditary tendency, but at the expense of 
the ra x ivvah , who during the reigns of weak imams were 
taxed unmercifully; while under normal circumstances, a 

51 M. A. Sha'ban, Islamic History , Volume II , p. 201. 

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system of checks and balances devised by the central 
administration and frequent surveys and censuses by the 
Fatimids ensured a fair system of taxation. The periodic 
cadastral survey (rawk) produced an equitable form of 
taxation assessed on the land and from merchants and 
ports. The Abbasids and Seljuks, on the other hand, had 
their taxes collected by fief holders (tax farmers) who, 
at their own discretion, sent the money to the central 
government. Cases of extortion from the populace were 
many. If the tax farmer found it expedient to gain extra 
money from the masses of peasants, he did not hesitate to 
increase their taxes in order to pocket the difference 
before sending the sums of money owed to the government. 
In the case of the Abbasids, the money collected went 
straight to the treasury, from where the caliph drew his 
personal and court expenditures. This meant that the 
leftover money was divided among the bureaus. 

The Fatimid system was just the opposite of the 
Abbasid. Taxes collected went straight to the bureaus 
for payment of salaries and for the purpose of ensuring 

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that the bureaus' expenditures were met. 52 The leftover 
money was sent to the treasury from where the Caliph- 
Imam drew his palace expenditures. Although the public 
treasury was by no means his personal property, he had 
access to it if necessary. It was during times of crisis 
such as famines, floods, and disasters that the caliph 
drew money out of the treasury to relieve the human 
suffering of his people. 53 

As far as the army officers were concerned, the 
Fatimids rewarded them by granting them monetary awards 
rather than by giving them iqta * and depending on them 
for running the provinces or the remote areas of the 
caliphate. 54 Iqta * , however, was not completely 

52 "Mais il 6tait pr6vu, dans les finances de cette 
6poque, que chaque revenue serait sp£cialement affects A une 
d6pense particuli&re de l'6tat. Le tr6sor publique et la 
casette royale ne servaient seulement qu'A encaisser les 
exc6dents de recettes et les reserves." A.M. Magued, 

"1/ Organisation financi^re en fegypte sous les fatimides." 
L'feqypte Contemporaine , 53 (1962): 54. 

53 Thierry Bianquis, "Une Crise frumentaire dans 
1' fegypte fatimide," JESHO, 23 (1979): 70. 

54 A description of the pay of the Turkish contingent 

of al-Mustansir' s army during the worst days of the Fatimid 

(continued. . . ) 


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nonexistent in Egypt. But, even when it existed, it was 

not in the form that was commonly known as iqta * jayshi . 

It was Claude Cahen who in "1/ Administration financi&re 

de l'arm§e fatimide d'apr&s al-Makhzuml " brought to my 

attention a paragraph from al-Maqrizi's Khita^ which 

confirms this point. He translated it as follows: 

Sache que hi sous les Fatimides d'£gypte ni 
sous les 6mirs qui les avaient pr£c6d6s il 
n'y avait pour les armies du pays d' iqta ' £ 
la mani&re de ce qui se pratique aujourd'hui 
pour les soldats de l'Stat "turc" [ = mamluk] . 

Mais le pays £tait afferm£ moyennant des qab - 
alat d6termin6es & quiconque le voulait des 
6mirs, des soldats, des notables arabes et coptes 
du district etc. 55 

54 ( . . . continued) 

caliphate, when the treasury was empty, is in al-MaqrlzT, 
I tti x az . III, 275-76, 281. Many government offices dealt in 
promissory notes instead of cash when they were unable to 
meet all the pay of their employees until positive cash flow 
was achieved. Goitein draws the conclusion that "the 
society of the Fatimid period to a certain extent was based 
on a paper economy, " either credit extended or payment made 
by promissory notes. S.D. Goitein, "Bankers' Accounts from 
the Eleventh Century A.D.," JESHO, 9 (1966): 28. 

55 Claude Cahen, "L' Administration financi&re de 
l'arm^e fatimide d'apr&s al-Makhzuml, " JESHO , 15 (1972): 


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The Fatimids used iota x i x tidad , in which the land was 
leased out on the basis of a fixed period of time with a 
fixed amount of money based on cadastral surveys, thus 
the 'ibrah method of payment. The 'ibrah "was based on 
the average revenue as arrived at by taking the revenue 
of the best and worst years, adding them and dividing by 
two, after allowing for changes in prices and occasional 
events such as wars and plagues." 56 

Because the army personnel were kept as salaried 
individuals, the Fatimids avoided parcelling out their 
kingdom and thus causing the disintegration of the 
caliphate into small sultanates. The policy of the 
Fatimids vis-a-vis land ownership was built on the theory 
of the imamate. All land belonged to God, the imam was 
God' s representative on earth and owned all the lands 
that he ruled over; as such he was free to grant pieces 
of land to whomever he pleased. 57 "The rest of the 

56 Hassanein Rabie, "The Size and Value of the Iqta' 
in Egypt, 546-741 A. H . /II 69-1341 A.D.," Studies in the 
Economic History of the Middle East , ed. M. A. Cook (London: 
Oxford University Press, 1970), p. 131. 

57 "Les souverains fatimides 6taient propr^taires de 

la terre d'6gypte & la fagon des souverains pharoniques . " 

(continued. . . ) 

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people who had been in possession of the land lost their 
titles to their properties but were allowed to continue 
to cultivate them. No one was forced off his land and it 

was passed from father to son 1,58 Thus, these 

previous freeholders became renters of the land as the 
tax they paid was kira' , or rent tax. 59 

As many historians concede, the Fatimid system of 
taxation and control over the land differed from that of 
the regimes which preceded the Fatimids or those which 


followed them. Both the Abbasids and Seljuks created 
bureaus or administrative units to divide the work of 
government among specialized entities so that tasks were 
done more efficiently. Yet both were imprecise in the 
definition of what the bureaus were supposed to do. 

While such was the case with the Abbasids and the 
Seljuks, the Fatimids increased the number of diwans from 

57 ( . . . continued) 

A.M. Magued, "1/ Organisation financiere en fegypte sous les 
fatimides," p. 48. 

58 M. A. Sha 'ban, Islamic History , Volume II , p. 200 

59 Ibid. , p. 201; al-MaqrizT, Al-Khi^at al- 
Maqrlziyyah (Cairo: Bulaq Press, 1833), I, 85. 

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the four they had inherited to twenty. 60 Thus the 
intricate fabric of the administration. Many of the 
dlwans created by the Fatimids duplicated each others' 
work on purpose in order to impose checks and balances, 
so that no offenses could be committed by one without 
their being caught by the other dlwans . 

The Fatimids also differed in their recruitment 
policies and in their staffing of administrative units. 
Their aim was competence, and they pursued it even if it 
meant that their kuttab were for the most part Coptic 
Christians. 61 The Fatimids had no interest in injecting 
their religion into the political arena, whereas this was 
not true of the Seljuks or the Abbasids. The latter, 
although they inherited a scribal class which was mainly 
Christian, made an effort to staff their bureaus as time 
passed with Muslims who were supporters of the Abbasid 

60 See Chapter One for detailed information on the 
dlwans . 

61 Abu Salih a 1 -Armani, Tarlkh fl nawahl Misr wa 
agtaj_iha, ed. B.T.A. Evetts (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1894), 
p. 47/fol 34b. On ff 28b and 29a, the author speaks of 
Muhammad as saying to his people to treat the Copts in Egypt 
well, for "they will be you help and support." The author 
cites an isnad on the authority of 'Amr ibn al-'As. 

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da *wah . Ultimately they had a majority of non-Arab, 
highly-educated Muslims in the bureaucracy. 63 The 
Seljuks, on the other hand, groomed Sunni 'ulama' and 
their students from the madrasah system to become 
administrators. The Nizamiyyah schools were created 
precisely for the education of the new scribal class in a 
religiously-oriented manner, thus making Islam part and 
parcel of the sultanate's ideology. 63 The Fatimids 
practiced the separation of state and religion in that 
they did not offer to incorporate the *ulama' into the 
administrative system. The Fatimid da x Is were not a 
bureaucratic cadre, nor were they salaried personnel in 
the administration. As we have seen, the Fatimid da *wah 
in many ways was underground in Egypt. "The Fatimid 
Caliph was an Emperor and a king of his vast domain, yet 
outside the boundaries of his Empire, he was shepherd of 
the ' d a * wa ' and its chief proselytizer . " 64 The Fatimids 

62 F.E. Peters, Allah' s Commonwealth (New York: Simon 
and Schuster, 1973), p. 403. 

63 A.K.S. Lambton, "The Internal Structure of the 
Saljuq Empire," p. 214. 

64 Bernard Lewis, "Ra'y fi tafsir tarTkh al- 
Fatimiyym, " Abh^th _al-nadwah al-duwalivvah li-tarikh al- 
Qahirah , I, 290. 

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sought to keep their da x wah and their religious system 
completely separate from their civil administrative 
system so that one ran parallel to the other, converging 
and meeting only at the level of the caliph-imam. Thus, 
the Fatimids tried to prevent the corruption of the 
religious system. 

The Abbasid and Seljuk qadis were salaried 
individuals. They were nominated practically for life, 
as was the case with all government officials. 65 Their 
pay was high so that they would not be tempted by bribes. 
Al-Qalqashandi relates that a certain qadl , Bakkar ibn 
Qutayba, was paid 1000 dinars per month. 66 The Fatimids, 
on the other hand, even when their chief da X I was paid by 
the government, created a "divorce of the juridical from 
the executive authorities," thus a separation in which no 
crippling of the system took place. 67 Although the 
system of justice was administered according to an 
Isma '111 Shi'i code, the qadis were from many different 

65 Hasan Ibrahim Hasan, Tankh al-dawlah al- 
Fatimivvah , p. 306. 

66 Ibid . , p. 318. See also al-Qalqashandi, Subh al 
a x sha , III, 526. 

67 S.D. Goitein, A Mediterranean Society , II, 365. 

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Sachsen- Anhalt 


madhhabs . This was possible because the difference 
between the Shi 'i code and the Sunni one are not great. 

Recruitment of the viziers was no different. The 
Abbasids and Seljuks named only Muslims to the position, 
while the Fatimids did not limit themselves to 
recruitment only from among the Isma'Ilis, but were able 
to recruit the most qualified men regardless of their 
religious, social, economic, and educational backgrounds. 
Thus, the Fatimids had several viziers who were freed 
slaves and who were extremely capable men. Unlike the 
Abbasids or Seljuks, the Fatimids did not look for 
viziers from the scribal class; for although such a 
qualification was a plus, it was not the only criterion 
by which the Fatimids judged the merits of their 
candidates for the vizierate. Thus, their viziers on the 
whole were capable men who made it possible for the 
caliphate to have a sense of continuity. 

68 "Toutefois, la justice se subit pas un grand 
changement lorsque les lois Chiites remplac&rent les lois 
sunnites, car les divergences entre le code chiite et le 
code sunnite ne sont pas grandes." A.M. Magued, "La 

Fonction de juge supreme dans l'§tat fatimide en fegypte, " 


The chain of command, the fashion in which the 
Fatimids passed on an order coming from the vizier or the 
caliph, was a pyramid-like structure, so that the second, 
third, and so-on in the chain of command received 
instructions by order of their rank. In the Abbasid and 
Seljuk systems, in contrast, stratification was limited 
to three to four kinds of hierarchical positions. The 
Fatimids' "elaborate system of administration was 
organized with scientific precision," thus contributing 
to their success . 69 They were able to create a strong 
administration by putting emphasis on justice and freedom 
of trade. Through a justly-administered diwan al- 
mazalim , the Fatimids were able to make propaganda for 
their dynasty and administration . 70 In an atmosphere of 
safety, the average merchant could flourish and the 
coffers of the state be replenished. 

Building on what they inherited, the Fatimids 
reformed and created new apparatuses to deal with their 
own bureaucracy. They built their administration on the 
model of their da x wah , whereby they had different 

69 S.D. Goitein, A Mediterranean Society , I, 33. 

70 A.M. Magued, "De quelques jurisdictions fatimides 
en Sgypte, " L' Egypte Contemporaine , 52 (1961): 47. 

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positions for different stages which a da '1 could attain. 
The result was a pyramid-like structure with a chain of 
command and of orders working from top to bottom: from 
one man, the caliph or vizier, to the simple employee. 
Complaints worked their way up from those in the lower 
echelons to the top administrator, the vizier, and even 
sometimes to the caliph. Such was the system the 
Fatimids devised which had no parallel in other Islamic 


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Prefatory Note: 

The first column in the table contains names and titles, 
if any, for the viziers. The second column designates 
religion and place of birth or origin. Professional and 
economic backgrounds are summarized in the third column 
(for a fuller explanation and analysis of this data, see 
Chapter Three) . The fourth column indicates the year of 
assumption of office, the fifth the year and cause of 
death, and the last the duration in office. 




Universilats- und Landesbibliothek 

Name & Religion & Professional and Year Assuned Year & Cause Duration in 

Titles Place of Origin Economic Background Office of Death Office 

REIGN OF AL-'AZIZ BI'LLAH (365-386/976-996) 

Ya'qub ibn 

Kill is 

Jewish, Isma'TIT; 

Merchant; upper 
middle class 




13 yrs. , 
8 mos. 

Jabr ibn 



Scribal; upper 



3 mos. 

AbO 1 l-ljasan 
‘Alt ibn ‘Umar 

Bat inf Muslim; 


Scribal; ? 



7 days 


Ja'far ibn 
al-Fa^l ibn al-Fur5t 

Sunni; Iraq 

Scribal, vizierial; 382/992 
upper class 


1 year 



'Tsa ibn 

Nasturus ibn 




Scribal; ? 




3 years 

AmTn al-Dawlah Isma'TIT; 

Hufjomnad al-tfasen Maghrib 

ibn ' Anna r ibn AbT-'l- 
Husoyn [AmTnT *alo DawlatT] 

Tribal shaykh; 
upper class 




1 year 


Bor jawSn 



Eunuch; slave 




3 years 

Al-Husoyn ibn 
-Al-Qa'id Jawhar 
[gajjd al.-quww5d] 



Military; upper 




3 years 



L-Abu'l-Ala Fahd Christian; 

ibn IbrShTm lal-Ra'Tsl Eavot 

Scribal; upper 
middle class 




3 years 

Zar'ah ibn 

Nasturus [al-ShofTl 



Scribal (son of a 
vizier); upper class 


(natural ) 

2 years 

Al-Husayn ibn Tahir 
al-Wazzan (wasatah) 
[amTn al-unan5'] 

TawhTdT (Druze?); 

I ran 

Scribal; upper 




2 years 

Al- Hasan ibn 
-AbT Sayyid 

Isma'TIT; ? 

Scribal; upper 
middle class 




62 days 

-- co-vizier with 

• • 

Abd a l -Rati man 
ibn AbT a l -Sayyid 

Isma'TIT; ? 

Scribal; upper 
middle class 




62 days 

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Name & 

Religion & 

Place of Origin 

Professional and 
Economic Background 

Year Assumed 

Abu'l-'Abbas al-Fadl Sunni; Iraq 
ibn al-WazTr AbT'l-Fadl 
Ja'far ibn al-Fa^l ib^ 
al-Furat (wasatah) 

Scribal; son of a 405/1014 
vizier; upper class 

Year & Cause 
of Death 



Abu'l-Hasan ’AIT ibn 
Ja'far ibn Falah 
IwazTr al-wuzara 1 
a l -amTr al-mu^affar . 
gutb al-dawlah l 

SaTd ibn *Tsa ibn 

sharaf al-mulk 
t~8i al-ma'olT 

AbO'l-Fath Mas'ud 
>bn Tahir al-Uazzan 
(wasStah) [al-omTr 

Jewish; Isma'TlT; 

Scribal; son of a 
vizier; upper cl 



Christian; Egypt Scribal; brother & 

son of a vizier; 
upper class 




Isma'TlT; Iran 

Scribal; son of a 409/1018, 
vizier; upper class 410/1019, 



(natural ) 

REIGN OF AL-2AHIR LI-IZAZ DIN ALLAH (411-427/1021-1035) 

A&j 1 l -Husayn ' Amnia r Isma'TlT; ? 

ibn Muhammad 
(wosfftah) [ a l -amTr 

Scribal; upper 
middle class 




Musa ibn al -Hasan 
( wasatah ) [ Yadd al- 

Abu Mubammad 
al-Hasan ibn Salih 
I jarnTd a l -daw l ah 
H jLnasThuha l 

Isma'TlT; ? 

Isma'TlT; Iraq 

Scribal; upper 
middle class 

Scribal; upper 
middle class 






REIGN OF AL-MUSTANSIR BI-ALLAH (427-487/1036-1094) 

Abu'l-Qasim 'AIT Isma'TlT; Iraq 

ibn Abmad Jirjira’T 

( was3{ah ) [ al -wazTr 

a Liajall al-aw^ad 

safT amTr al-mu’minTn 

wa khSl isatuhl 

Abu-Man§ur Sadaqah Jewish; Iraq 
ibn YOsuf al-FalShT 
(nominated by predecessor) 
t ol-wazTr a l -a jail taj 
abri'asah fakhr al-mulk 
Mustafa amTr al-mu'minTn] 

Scribal; middle 




Scribal; son of a 
vizier; upper 
middle class 




Duration in 

5 days 

3 years 

5 months 

2 years 

7 months & 
a few days 

9 months 

1 year 

9 years 

3 years 

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Nome & 

Religion & 

Place of Origin 

Professional and 
Economic Background 

Year Assumed 

Year & Cause 
of Death 

Duration in 

Abu' l-Barakat IJusayn Isma flf; Iraq 

hTr al-a'irrcnah 
fna* al-khulasa 1 

Scribal; nephew & 
son of viziers; 
upper class 


ca. 468/1075 

1 year 

Se'Td ibn Mas'ud 
(wasajah) [ Abu 1 l- 

Isma'TlT; ? 

Scribal; upper 



1 year 

Abu Muhanmad al-ljasan Sunni; Palestine 
ibn *AIT ibn 'Abd al- 
RahmSn al-Yazurf 

QadT; lower middle 442/1050 



8 years 


at-du'at V 

majd khalisat 
ir li'l-dTn 

Abu'l-Faraj Abdallah Isma'TIT?; Iraq 
ibn Muhanmad al-BabilT 

Scribal; ? 

450/1058 (twice) 4547/1062 2 months, 14 
452/1060 (natural) days; 4 months, 
454/1062 10 days; 5 months; 

11 months, 24 days 

Abu'l-Faraj Muhanmad 1 
ibn Ja'far al-MaghribT 

khal i^otuh l 

iTlT; Maghrib Scribal (grandson 

of a vizier); 
upper class 

Abdallah ibn Yaljya Sunni; Iraq 
ibn Mudabbir 

V sharaf 
rid al-ru' 

AdTb from a family 
of Abbas id viziers; 
upper class 

tfiva 1 izz al-dfn 

fnughTth al-MuslirnTn khalTl 

amTr al-mu'minTn wa khali^atuh wa s; 

' Abd al-KarTm ibn Isma'TIT; Syr 

‘Abd al-IJakTm 

[ al-wazTr al-aial l 

fakhr al-wuzara' 'amTd 

s.l -ru'asa' qa<JT' l-qu^St 

ja da'T al-du'St majd al-ma'ilT 

cafTl al-dfn yamm amTr al-mu'minTn 




khali^atuh wa safwatuh l 

Isma'TIT; Syria QadT; middle class 453/1061 







2 years, 
2 months 

several months 

1 year 

j£-. Universiliits- und Landesbibliolhek 
k Sachsen-Anhall 


on in 

is, 14 


Name & 

Religion & Professional and 

Place of Origin Economic Background 

Year Assumed 

Year & Cause 
of Death 

Abu- 'All AJimad ibn Isma'TlT; Syria 
' Abd al-HakTm ibn 
Sa'Td " 

ggdPl-qudat wa da'T 

a_l -du'at thiqat al-MuslimTn 

khalTl amT r al-mu'minTn wa khalisatuh] 

Scribal; son of 
vizier above, first 
to succeed his father; 
upper class 



Duration in 

17 days 

? ; Syrii 

Abu- ‘Abdallah ? ; 

al-Husayn ibn Sadid 

[ajj.wazT r a l - sayy i d a l : aj al 
Ql-kamil al-awhad dhti'l-kaf 

Abu-A(jmad Ahmad ibn Isma'TlT; Syria 
Abd al-KarTm ibn 'Abd al-HakTm 
C al-wazTr al-aiall al-awhad al-wuzara* mai.d_al.-_a^f_iya_'. 
ggc/Pl-qucJgt wa da'T al-du'fft 
khalTl arrfTr al-mu'minTn] 

Scribal; ? 


478/1085 6 months; 

(natural) returned to Syri; 

Qaflf ; nephew of vizier 455/1063 
& gadT; upper class (twice) 



Abu-Ghal ib ‘Abd 
al-?5hir ibn Fadl 
ibn al-'AjamT 

Isma'TlT; ? 

OagT, da' T : upper 455/1063 
middle class (several times); 

456/1063. 465/1072 

r al -a 

in shar; 

ifokhir khalTl amTr al-mu'minTn wa khal i 

A l -Hasan ibn 
al-Qa^T ibn 

Isma'TlT of 
KharijT origin; 

Qadf : upper 

(5 times; 6 times 
as gadT al-qudat) 



Abu' l -Makar im S 

al -Musharraf 
ibn As 'ad 
Cwaz Tr al-wuzara' 
5i-~adi l khalTl amTr 

Abu-'Ali al- 
Hasan ibn AbT- 
Sa'd IbrShTm ibn 
Sahl al-TustarT 
lal-'ornTd 'a lam al-ki 

Sunni; Iraq 


Jewish; Iraq 

Scribal; client of 
Abu'l-Faraj al-BabilT; 
upper middle class 

Merchant; upper 
middle class 





Abu' l-Qasim Hibat ?; ? ( {ari ' 

Allah ibn Muhanmad allT Mi^r ) 


t al-wazTr al-aiall 

s ayyid al-wuzar5' tai al-a^fiya' 

dhukhrat amTr al-mu'minTn ] 

Abu' l -nasan *A17 ?; Syria 

ibn al-AnbarT 
Cal-athTr kafT' l-kufat] 

Scribal; ? 



Scribal; middle 









2 months, 
45 days 

3 months; 
34 days; 

1 day 

2 months 

10 days 

10 days; 
10 days 

less than 
one month 

& Universiliils- und Landesbibliothek 

Name & 

Religion & 

Place of Origin 

Professional and 
Economic Background 

Year Assumed 

Year & Cause 
of Death 

Duration in 

Abu- 'AIT al -Hasan Shi * I (.i 
ibn SadTd al-Dawlah Egypt 
Dhu' l -Kafalatayn 

Sayyid ; brother of 457/ 1064 
a vizier; upper class 


a few days 

Abu-Shuja* Sunni; Iraq 

Hubaimad ibn al-Ashraf 
[al-ajall al-mu'azzam 

Scribal, military 457/1064 
(son of Iraqi vizier); 
upper class 



a few days 

Atu' l-ljasan Tahir 
ibn Uazir 

? ; Syria 

Scribal; ? 


a few days 

Abu- 'Abdallah ? ; Egypt 

Muharrmad ibn Ab7- Hamid 

wa 1 1 -Musi i ml 
wa zahTruh ] 

Abu-Sa'd Mansur, Christian; 
known as Abu Zunbur Egypt 

m shj 

Abu 1 l - 'Ala* 'Abd Muslim; ? 

al-Ghan” ibn Nasr ibn 
Sa'Td al-Qayf 
( wasatah ) [ al -sadia 



Abu-Najm Badr 
al- Jama IT al- 

l -.sayyid al-ajall 
amTr al-iuvush savi 
aj- Islam ria^ir al-i 

Abu* l-Qasim 
Shah inshah ibn 
Badr a l -Mustang irT 
[al-sayyid al-aialt 





Scribal, military; 
upper class 

ialal al-Islam sharaf 
a l -Sham nasir al-dTh 
khalTl anfTr al-mu'mintnl 

? (son of napr 

g-L-. nO ; ? 

Scribal; ? 

Military, mamtuk : 





Military, scribal 487/1094 

(son of Badr al-JamalT); (succeeded 
freed slave father) 





(natural ) 



1 day 

a few days; 
fled office 

8 years 

21 years 

28 years 

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Sachsen- Anhalt 



Name & 

Religion & Professional and Year Assuned Year & Cause Duration in 

Place of Origin Economic Background Office of Death Office 

(549-555/1154-1160) AND (555-567/1160-1172) 

Jala 1 i “ ibn 


Military, scribal; 
upper class 


7 years, 
4 months 

al-matik al 

RazzTk ibn 
Tala' i * 

C al - 'ad i l i 

Imami ; 

Military, scribal- 
son of vizier; 
upper class 


2 years 

Shawar ibn 
MujTr al-Sa'dl" 


Arab (tribal) 

Military; shavkh 




4 years, 
8 months 


Amir ibn Suwar 

[ shams al-khilafi 

Asad ol-DTn 

Salat) al-DTn 

Sunni; Yemen 


Sunni; Kurd 

Sunni; Kurd 

Military; amTr 

Military; ? 









9 months 

2 months 

Salah al-DTn al-Ayyubi assumed power in his own right and became sultan, ending the Fatimid caliphate. 

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REIGN OF AL- 'AZIZ BI'LLAH (365-386/976-996) 

Ya 'qub ibn Killis (368-380/978-990) 

(For a full account of his life and career, see Chapter 
Three) . 

Jabr ibn al-Oasim (373-374/983-984) 

A MaghribT from a very prominent sedentary ( hadar ) 
family, he served al- 'Aziz in the capacity of his "heir" 
( khallfah ) when the latter was in Syria. 1 Al- 'Aziz 
brought him as a vizier when Ibn Killis was imprisoned 
because of a misunderstanding between the latter and the 
caliph; but when Ibn Killis was released, Jabr returned 
to his previous position as head of the police of both 
Upper and Lower Egypt. 

Abu' 1-Hasan 'All ibn 'Umar al- 'Addas (380-381/990-991) 

He became vizier (damin, guarantor of affairs of state) 
when Ibn Killis died. It is important to note here that 
the caliph al-'AzIz had a hard time finding a vizier 
after Ibn Killis' s death. No-one could measure up to 
Ya'qub, and the standard was very difficult to meet. 
Thus, al-'AzIz had a succession of viziers with limited 
prerogatives who occupied the office only for a year or 
less. Al- 'Addas was no exception. Furthermore, he 
mismanaged collection of the kharai and thus reduced the 
caliphate's income. Accused of embezzlement, he was 
acquitted because he was not guilty of stealing but of 

1 Ibn al-Sayrafl, Al-Isharah ila man nala al- 
wizarah , p. 90; also see Jamal al-Din ibn Zafir, Akhbar 
al-duwal al-munqati 'ah , p. 38. 

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mismanagement. He spent fifty-seven days out of his one- 
year term in prison. 

Abu' 1-Fadl Ja 'far ibn al-Furat (382-343/992-993) 

He was the vizier of the Ikhshidl ruler, Kafur, and 
continued as such even when Jawhar conquered Egypt. The 
latter "re-instated him in his position" during the early 
part of his rule over Egypt. 2 3 Named by al-'Aziz as his 
vizier, he seems to have been a competent servant, yet he 
did not last more than a year. He is said to have died 
in 391, but the biographers are not very sure even of the 
date. 2 There is a consensus of the medieval historians 
concerning his lineage: he was the great-grandson of a 
vizier, many of his family having served as viziers of 
the Abbasids. 

'Isa ibn Nasturus (383-386/993-996) 

This vizier of al-'Aziz belonged to a Coptic family. A 
scribe and secretary of finance before becoming vizier, 
he was noted for having amassed large amounts of kharai 
money through his strict collection policy. Ibn Nasturus 
was accused by some contemporaries of hiring only 
Christians for positions in the diwans and of firing 

2 Al-Maqrlzl, Itti 'az , III?, 119. 

3 In his edition of Ibn al-Sayrafi, Al-Isharah , p. 
87, 'Abd Allah Mukhlis quotes Yaqut, Mu ' i am al-udaba' and 
Ibn Khallikan, Wafavat al-a 'van as giving two years for 
Ibn al-Furat' s death; but Mukhlis feels that the former 
source is more accurate. 

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Muslims. 4 Whether this favoritism was alleged by biased 
Muslim historians or whether the vizier actually 
discriminated in recruitment cannot be verified. 

However, one should remember that the staff of the 
bureaus in the early days of the caliphate in Egypt came 
from the Coptic class of professional scribes; one might 
then take the Muslim historians' criticisms as sour 
grapes or envy. Regardless of whether the accusation was 
right, Ibn Nasturus all the same lost his position as 
vizier and was killed by the caliph al-Hakim in 391/1000. 

REIGN OF AL-HAKIM BI-AMR ALLAH (386-411/996-1021) 

Abu Muhammad al-Hasan ibn ' Ammar ibn Abl ' 1-Husavn [Amin 
al-Dawlah l (386-387/996-997) 

A nobleman from the Kutamah tribe of north Africa, he was 
known to be an able diplomat who would negotiate a 
settlement rather than resort to war. He actually left 
office after an insurrection in the army between the 
Maghribls and the Turks, which prompted him to retire to 
private life. He was in office for one year only and was 
the first vizier to receive an honorific title. 5 

4 'All Nur al-Dln al-Azhan, Al-Nuzhah al-sanivvah 
fl dhikr al-khulafa' wa' 1-muluk al-Mi$riyyah , Paris, 
Biblioth&que Nationale, MS arabe 1815, fol 153r; Ibn 
Zafir, Akhbar al-duwal al-munqati 'ah , p. 41; 'Ala' al- 
Dln Juvaynl, Tarlkh-i Jihanqushav (Tehran: Matba 'ay-i 
Majles, 1352 A.H.), p. 94. 

5 ' I z z al-Dln Ibn al-Athir, Al-Kamil fl al-tarlkh 
(Beirut: Dar Sadir, 1966), IX, 118. 

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Barjawan [al-Ustadh] (387-390/997-999) 

A white eunuch, he ascended to the highest office of 
state. He was entrusted by al- 'Aziz to take the oath 
( bay 'ah ) for al-Hakim. Barjawan was also al- 'Aziz's 

choice to be al-Hakim' s chief administrator until the 

latter came of age. Barjawan was nonetheless unable to 
exercise his prerogatives as mudabbir al-dawlah because 
Ibn 'Ammar (the vizier described above) claimed the 
vizierate for himself. Barjawan remained very close to 
al-Hakim and eventually was able to seize the vizierate 
for himself. 6 He was in power for three years, at the 

end of which he was murdered on orders from al-Hakim. 

Although he was successful in his wars against the 
caliphate's enemies, Barjawan' s unrestricted powers 
threatened al-Hakim and prompted the caliph to have him 


Al-Husavn ibn al-Qa' id Jawhar f Oa' id al-Quwwad ] (390- 

He was named as vizier when Barjawan was murdered but he 
was not alone in this position. He had to share the 
vizierate with Abu' 1- 'Ala' Fahd ibn Ibrahim (see below). 
Al-Husayn was an army general who was very careful in his 
dealings with others lest he be accused of mismanagement 
by al-Hakim and thus lose his life, which occurred after 
he abandoned his post when his co-vizier was killed. 

6 Ibid . , IX, 119-120. 

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Abu' 1- 'Ala' Fahd ibn Ibrahim f Al-Ra'Ts I (390-393/999 

He shared the vizierate with al-Husayn ibn Jawhar. He 
had been the head of the dlwans . After falling out of 
favor with the caliph al-Hakim, he was murdered like his 
predecessors. 7 

Zar 'ah ibn Nasturus [ Al-Shafl l (401-403/1010-1012) 

His vizierate was spent in accumulating wealth for the 
Fatimids and in organizing affairs of state after an 
interruption in the vizierate and the murder by al-Hakim 
of many administrators. A son of 'Isa ibn Nasturus, 

Zar 'ah died a natural death while in office. 

Al-flusayn ibn Tahir al-Wazzan [Amin al-Umana' 1 (403-405/ 


Prior to his vizierate, he was the head of the treasury 
( bayt al-mal ) . He was obsessed with collection of taxes 
to the point that after the death of the vizier al-Husayn 
ibn Jawhar, he sold all the latter's properties and 
deposited the proceeds in the treasury. For no apparent 
reason, he was killed personally by al-Hakim when the two 
went out riding together. His was not a vizierate as 
such but a wasatah , a limited vizierate by definition. 
This vizier was an "intercessor" between the caliph and 
his subjects. This kind of vizierate was very common 
during al-Hakim' s reign, for the caliph did not believe 
in delegating power to anyone. 8 

7 Ibid . , IX, 122. 

8 Ibn al-Sayraf l, Al-Isharah , p. 83. 


Al-Hasan ibn Abi al-Savvid (405/1014) and 'Abd a 1 -Rahman 
ibn Abi al-Savvid (405/1014) 

These two brothers shared the position of wasatah . They 
were regarded as honest men and collected the 
government's dues with strictness. For no apparent 
reason they fell out of favor and were murdered after 
only sixty-two days in office. 

Abu' 1- 'Abbas al-Facjl (405/1014) 

He was the son of the vizier Abu'1-Fadl Ja'far ibn al- 
Fadl ibn al-Furat . A vizier by wasatah, he was in office 
for only five days before being murdered on orders of the 

Abu' 1-Hasan 'All ibn Ja 'far ibn Falah [Wazlr al-wuzara' 
dhu-al-riyasatavn al-amir al-muzaffar qutb al-dawlah l 

A prominent man from the Kutamah tribe, he was a close 
i friend of al-Hakim, and his family were close friends of 

the Fatimids. Al-Hakim was very generous with 'All ibn 
Ja'far when he bestowed the vizierate on him: he gave him 
a large sum of money and a great number of beasts of 
burden. In addition, this vizier was given the 
governorships of Alexandria, Tannis, and Dimyat, the 
prefecture of police, and the hisbah . After all the 
power and money given to him, he nevertheless suffered 
the same fate as his predecessors: he was killed when 
riding home. 

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- s - a ife n x Isa ibn Nasturus [ al-Amln al-zahir sharaf al- 
mulk taj al-ma 'all dhu' 1-iadavn l (409/1018) 

He was named vizier as was his brother before him; he did 
not last more than six months before being killed. Al- 
Hakim had given him a vizierate of the sword and the pen. 

for he was qasim al-khilafah or sharer of the caliphate. 

A1 Mas x ud ibn Tahir al-Wazzan f al-Amir shams al-mulk al- 
al-amin abu' 1-fath l (409-410, 414-415/1018-1019, 

Given a wasatah or limited vizierate, he conducted 
government business from his own home as had Ibn Killis. 
He was spared death at the hands of al-Hakim and was 
renamed vizier by the new caliph, al-Zahir, when al- 
Jirjira'T took over as regent for al-Zahir. 

REIGN OF AL-ZAHIR LI-I 'ZAZ DIN ALLAH (411-427/1021-1035) 

Abu' 1-Husayn 'Ammar ibn Muhammad [ al-Amlr al-khatir ra' is 
al-ru'asa ' 1 (411/1020) 

A scribe and head of dTwan al-insha' , he was a diplomat 
of sorts, for he mediated among the Turks, the Easterners 
(al-Mashariqah) and the hadarah (soldiers of sedentary, 
non-bedouin origin) in the army. He also took the oath 
for al-Imam al-Zahir li-I'zaz Din Allah after the 
disappearance of al-Hakim. He remained in office for 
seven months and a few days, then lost his life. 

9 Ibid . , p. 80. 

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Musa ibn al-Hasan [Yad al-dawlah abu' 1-futufo l (413/1022) 
In the service of al-Hakim as prefect of police, he 
became governor al-Sa 'id for al-Zahir in 412/1021 and was 
also head of dlwan al-insha' . He became vizier by 
wasa^ah and lasted for nine months, after which he was 
imprisoned then killed. 

Abu Muhammad al-Hasan ibn galih al-Ruzbari [_VAmid al- 
dawlah wa naslhuha] (418/1027) 

An elderly man who was well-versed in the art of 
government, he was administrator of Ramlah during al- 
'Aziz's caliphate. He also became the governor of al- 
Sham, then the head of dlwan al-jaysh , and finally 
vizier. According to Ibn al-Sayrafi, he was mistreated 
by al-Zahir, who did not respect his age and seniority 
and threw him out of office, reinstated him, then 
dismissed him again. 

Abu' 1-Qasim 'All ibn Ahmad al-Jirjira' I r al-Wazfr al- 
aiall al-awhad safl amir al-mu'minin wa khalisatuh ] (418— 

An Iraqi by birth, he came with his brothers to Egypt and 
joined the Fatimid bureaucracy in the Sa'id during the 
reign of al-Hakim. So many complaints were voiced 
against him that al-Hakim punished him by cutting off his 
hands. Vizier of al-Zahir from 418-427/107-1035, when 
al-Zahir died, al-Jirjira' I took the oath for al- 
Mustansir bi'llah and remained in his service for nine 


Fatimid recapture of north Africa, 1 ^ he also subdued 
revolts against Fatimid rule in Syria. 

REIGN OF AL-MUSTANSIR BI'LLAH (427-487/1036-1094) 

Mansur Sadagah ibn Yusuf al-FalahT f al-wazlr al- 
ajall taj al-riyasah fakhr al-mulk mustafa amrr al- 
roulminln] (436-439/104 4-1047) 

A convert to Islam from Judaism, he was a personal friend 
of and aide to al-Jir jira' I, who had asked al-Mustansir 
to name him as vizier after his death. He became the 
vizier as al-Jir jira' I wanted. Al-Falahl was not a 
strong man and had to share power and position with Abu- 
Sa'd al-Tustarl, the personal director of al-Mustansir ' s 
mother's affairs. Al-Tustarl was the owner of al- 
Mustansir' s slave-mother and sold her to al-Zahir. With 
the two dhimmls in control of the caliphate, there was 
widespread anger at the power which these two men 
enjoyed. 11 Al-Falahl was resentful of al-Tustari's 
power, however, and sought to phase him out. The latter 
was killed but his death did not mean that al-Falahi was 
free finally to run affairs for al-Mustansir. On the 

10 Muhammad ibn 'All ibn Hammad, Akhbar muluk Bam 
.'Ubayd wa slratuhum (Algiers: Carbonel, 1927), p. 59. 

11 Jalal al-Dln al-Suyuti, Husn al-muhadarah fi 
akhbar Mi$r wa' 1-Qahirah , Paris, Biblioth^que Nationale, 
MS arabe 5871, fol 157r. 

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contrary, the mother of al-Mustansir saw to it that he 
was imprisoned and executed in 439/1047. 12 

Abu' 1-Barakat al-Husayn [ sayyid al-wuzara' zahTr al- 
a' immah sama ' al-khulasa' fakhr al-ummah ] (440-441/1048- 

A brother of al-Jirjira'i and an Iraqi by birth, he took 
over the vizierate after al-Falahl. He was known for 
i confiscating properties, imprisoning people and exiling 

many more. The same fate befell him as had befallen his 
predecessor: he was imprisoned by al-Mustansir, only to 
be exiled to Syria in 441/1049. 

Abu' 1-Fadl Sa 'id ibn Mas 'ud [J_amid al-mulk zayn al-kufat 1 

A senior scribe and a dlwan head, he was in charge of 
dlwan al-Sham until he was asked to become a wasit, a 
lesser form of vizier. 

Abu-Muhammad al-Hasan ibn 'All ibn 'Abd a 1- Rahman al- 
Yazurl [ al-wazir al-a jail al-awhad al-mokin sayyid al- 
wuzara' tai al-asfiva' qadl' 1-qudat wa da 'I al-du 'at 
'alam al-maid khalisat amir al-mu'minin l (442-450/1050- 

Al-Yazurl was catapulted into office. A member of 
neither the scribal nor the military class, he was born 
in a small village called Yazur, located in the district 
of al-Ramlah in Palestine. Ibn al-Athir describes him as 

12 For a complete account of al-Falahi and al- 
Tustari's relationship, see al-Maqrlzi, Itti 'az , II, 195- 

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a peasant who knew nothing but his trade. 10 Al-Yazur? s 
father was the village gad! . Al-Yazuri left Ramlah for 
Cairo where he became nazir of dfwan al-savvidah , al- 
Mustansir' s mother, after which he became Sunni gadiT . 
Al-Mustansir made him his vizier and bestowed on him 
several honorific titles, not the least of which was da x I 
al-du 'at, in itself a contradiction, as al-Yazuri was a 
Sunni. Desperate as al-Mustansir was to have a vizier 
during this period of his caliphate, when famine, 
disease, and war threatened his rule, he was willing to 
make concessions to anyone who would relieve him of these 
pressures. Al-Yazuri got yet another concession from al- 
Mustansir, who allowed him to have his name included on 
newly-minted coins. 14 This was the reward that the 
caliph gave him for subduing Banu Qurrah (the Arabs of 
al-JazIrah in Egypt), who were opponents of the caliph. 15 
Al-Y3zun took care of may other enemies of the caliphate 
and wanted to go as far as acquiring Baghdad for his 
master. His expenditures on war at a time when famine 
and disease were widespread and when the Nile was low 
depleted the treasury, thus leading to more disasters. 
Moreover, al-Yazuri did away with fixed prices on 
staples, thus causing prices to soar and more persons to 
die because they could not pay for food. Having depleted 

13 Ibn al-Athir, A1 -Kamil fl al-tarlkh , IX, 566. 

14 Text in al-Suyuti, Husn al-muhacjarah , fol 156v 
See Chapter One, note 71. 

15 Ibn al-QalanisT, Dhavl tarlkh Dimashq (Beirut: 
al-Matba 'ah al-Yasu 'iyyah, 1908), p. 84. 

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the treasury, al-Yazuri was removed by al-Mustansir from 
the vizierate, placed under house arrest, and executed as 
a traitor. 16 

Abu ' 1-Farai x Abdallah ibn Muhammad al-Babill f al-wazir 
al-aiall al-as x ad al-makln al-hafiz al-amiad al-amin 
x amid al-khilafah ialal al-wuzara' tai al-mamlakah wazr 
al-imamah sharaf al-millah kaf il al-din khalll amir al- 
mu'minin wa khalisatuh l (450, 452, 454/1058, 1060, 1062) 

A scribe who was a well-known mathematician and prose 
writer, he was brought into al-Yazuri's court to help 
him. After al-Yazuri' s death he was asked on three 
occasions by al-Mustansir to become vizier. These 
vizierates were for very short periods, none exceeding 
five months. 

Abu' 1-Farai Muhammad ibn Ja x far al-Maghribi f al-wazir al- 
aiall al-kamil al-awhad $afi amir al-mu'minln wa 
khalisatuh l (450-452/1058-1060) 

He had fled Egypt during al-Hakim' s reign because his 
grandfather, father, and uncles were killed by that 
caliph. He subsequently came back from the Maghrib, 
where he had hidden, and joined the government of al- 
Yazuri. When al-Babili became vizier, he imprisoned 
Abu'l-Faraj as a suspect who had been a friend of al- 
Yazuri; but when al-Babili was dismissed, Abu'l-Faraj was 
named vizier by al-Mustansir. He remained in office for 
two years, after which he negotiated with the caliph to 
give him a position as head of a diwan . He got his wish 

16 Hasan Ibrahim Hasan, Al-Fatimiyyun fx Misr , p. 
251. ' 


and became head of dlwan al-insha' . This was the first 
time that a vizier was offered a "demotion" and 
reinstated into the kuttab cadre. 17 

Abdallah ibn Yahya ibn Mudabbir [ al-wazlr al-aiall al- 
'adil al-amir sharaf al-wuzara' savvid al-ru' asa ' tai al- 
asfiya' 'izz al-din muqhith al-Muslimln khalll amir al- 
mu' minln l (453, 455/1061, 1063) 

Twice vizier, but for very short periods, he was an Iraqi 
from a well-known family whose history is related by the 
chroniclers. Ibn Mudabbir was a learned Sufi. 
Unfortunately he died while in office and had little 
influence on events. 

_'Abd al-Kanm ibn ' Abd al-Hakam f al-wazlr al-aiall f akhr 
al-wuzara' ^amld al-ru'asa' gad!' 1-qudat wa da 'i al- 

Xat ma ~id al-ma 'all kaf II al-din vamln amir al-mu' minln l 

Born into a family of qadis , he was the first in his 
family to become a vizier. His father was qadi in 
Tripoli (in Syria) but he moved to Egypt. 'Abd al-Karlm 
died five months after he took office. 

Abu _'A1I Ahmad ibn 'Abd al-Hakim ibn Sa 'id f al-wazTr al- 
^-i al1 Qadi' 1-qudat wa da *1 al-du 'at thiqat al-Muslimin 
khalll amir al-mu 'minln l (454/1062) 

He was vizier for only seventeen days, prior to which he 
was a q3dT. Nothing is known about him except for his 
reputation for piety and religiosity. 

17 Ibn al-Sayrafi, Al-isharah , p. 65. 

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Abu x Abdallah al-Husayn ibn Sadld f al-wazlr al-sayyid al- 
aiall al-kamil al-awhad ] (454/1062) 

A Damascene who was a well-known writer and scribe, he 
was brought from Syria to become the vizier of al- 
Mustansir for six months only, after which he returned to 
his native land to become its governor. 

Abu -Ahmad Ahmad ibn ' Abd al-Karim ibn ' Abd al-Haklm f al- 

wazir al-aiall al-awhad 

al-wuzara' maid al-asfiya' 

gadl' 1-qudat wa da'i al-du'at ] (455/1063) 

Twice vizier in the same year, but only in power for 
three and a half months, he alternated being between 
gadl / 1-qudat and vizier. After his second vizierate, he 
left for al-Sham. 

Abu-Ghalib 'Abd al-Zahir ibn Fadl ibn al 'AiamT f al-wazir 
al-aiall al-awhad al-as 'ad tai al-wuzara' al-amln ai- 

mak In sharaf al-kufat dhu' 1-mafakhir khalil amir al- 

mu'minin l (455, 456, 465/1063, 1064, 1072) 

Three times vizier, but for very short periods, he was in 
office the first time for three months, the second for 
thirty-four days, and in the first days of his third 
vizierate he was killed. His last vizierate came at a 
point when the caliphate was on the point of collapse. 
With famine and plague ravaging Egypt, and with the army 
stealing the goods of the ra 'ivvah , no vizier was able to 
correct the situation. 18 When human beings engaged in 

18 Ibn Muyassar, Akhbar Misr, II, 20; Muhammad ibn 
Ahmad ibn Iyas, Kitab tarlkh Misr: bada' i ' al-zuhur fi 
waqa' i ' al-duhur (Cairo: Bulaq Press, 1311/1896), p. 61. 

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cannibalism, there was no room for a son of a da 'I and a 
pious man to become vizier. 

Al-Hasan ibn Kudaynah f al-wazir al-aiall al-awhad jalal 

al-Islam zahir a 1- imam qadl' 1-qudat wa da X I al-du x at 

^ araf al-majd khalll amir al-mu'minln l (455-466/1063- 

Al-Hasan was five times vizier and six times qadl' 1- 
^ u< j at *- n ten years. He was a tyrant who inflicted pain 
on innocent men. For lack of better men to assume the 
vizierate under al-Mustansir, al-Hasan was invested with 
executive powers. He was the vizier when Badr al- Jamal! 
arrived in Egypt and personally struck him down. 

Abu' 1-Makarim al-Musharraf ibn As x ad al-Babill [waz^r al- 

^ zara ' al- x adil khalil amir al-mu'minin l (456, 457/1064, 

Abu' 1-Makarim was twice vizier of al-Mustansir. His 
vizierates were for short periods, one for two months and 
the other for less than two months. 

Abu- x Ali al-Hasan ibn Abi-Sajd Ibrahim ibn Sahl al- 
— stari [al- x amid x alam al-kufat 1 (end of 456 -beginning 
of 457/1064) 

He was vizier for ten days only, then asked to be 
relieved of his duties. Prior to his vizierate, he was 
secretary of the treasury. His father had been director 
of the affairs of al-Mustansir' s mother. Hasan's family 
was known in Cairo as wealthy merchants whose holdings 
are described by al-MaqrTzT ( Itti x az , volume II) and by 
Ibn Muyassar ( Tarlkh Misr ) . 


Abu' 1-Qasim Hibat Allah ibn Muhammad al-Ra x vanl [ al- 
wazTr al-ajall savvid al-wuzara' tai al-asfiva' dhukhrat 
amir al-mu'minin l (457/1065) 

An alien resident in Egypt, he was employed in its 
government and attained the vizierate twice, each time 
for ten days.^ 

Abu' 1-Hasan 'All ibn al-Anbari [ al-athTr kafi ' 1-kufat 1 

In office for less than one month, as all the other 
viziers of this era, he was unable to change existing 
conditions in Egypt. He was a Shami by origin and was 
employed as deputy head of the chancellery in al-Sham. 

Abu- 'All al-Hasan ibn Sadid al-Dawlah f al-wazir al-aiall 
taj al-rivasah 'alam al-din savvid al-sadat ] (457/1065) 

He spent only a few days as vizier. Because of the lack 
of respect shown by government employees and because of 
the state of affairs of the caliphate, he left the 
vizierate for al-Sham, where he remained until conditions 
in Egypt changed. He returned to Egypt only to die. 

Abu - Shu i a ' Muhammad ibn al-Ashraf r al-aiall al-mu v azzam 

fakhr al-mulk l (457/1065) 

A man of high integrity and tremendous wealth, he was the 
son of a vizier who had served the Buyid Sultan Baha' al- 
Dawlah. The chroniclers of the time mention the family's 

19 Al-SuyutI, Husn al-muhadarah , fol 157r. Fatimid 
historians of the time have been unable to assign him a 
place in Egyptian society except in these terms: min al- 
tari' in 'ala Misr. 

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wealth. Abu Shuja' was vizier for only a few days. He 
left for Syria by sea but was intercepted by Badr al- 
Jamair, the commander in chief of the Fatimid army, who 
killed him. 

Abu' 1-Ijasan Tahir ibn Wazir f al-aiall al-wailh savvid al- 
ii^^t nafts al-dawlah zahTr amir al-mu' minTn l (458/1066) 
After a few days as vizier, he left for Tripoli, Syria, 
his birth place. Prior to his vizierate, he was a scribe 
in diwan al-insha' . 

Abu- x Abdallah Muhammad ibn AbT - Hamid f al-qadir al- 'adil 
shams al-umam savvid ru' asa' al-savf wa ' 1-qalam ta i al- 
N amid al-huda sharaf al-din qhavvath al-Islam wa ' 1- 
Muslimin hamim amtr al-mu' minTn l (458/1066) 

He was a vizier for one day, after which he was dismissed 
and killed by al-Mustansir . He came from a rich family 
from TannTs. 

Abu-Sa 'd Mansur ibn Zunbur f al-aiall al-awhad al-mokin 
al-sayyid al-afdal al-amin sharaf al-kufat ^amid al- 
khilafah muhibb amir al-mu' minTn l (458/1066) 

Abu-Sa 'd was no different than his predecessors, the 
viziers who spent a few days or months in office. He was 
in the executive chair for only a few days, after which 
he fled because the army demanded their paychecks and he 
knew that the treasury was empty. He was a Christian in 
the service of the Fatimids, as was his father before 

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Abu' 1- 'Ala' 'Abd al-Ghan 1 ibn Nasr ibn Sa 'Td al-Davf f al- 
sadiq al-mu'min makln al-dawlah wa amTnuha] (458- 

According to Ibn al-Sayrafl, Abu' 1- 'Ala' was an employee 
of al-Yazurl when the latter was vizier. He was given a 
wasatah vizierate with limited prerogatives until Badr 
al- Jamal! was called to save Egypt and become vizier. 

Ibn Muyassar, on the other hand, said that Abu' 1- 'Ala' 
was only in office for a few days and that Ibn AbT 
Kudaynah (mentioned above) was the vizier when Badr 
arrived in Egypt. 20 Al-Maqrizr spoke of Ibn Abl Kudaynah 
too as having been the vizier for approximately one 
year. 21 The history of the viziers between 4598 and 466 
is quite confusing because many of them served such short 
periods of time that some names might not have reached 
us. Furthermore, many of the above-mentioned figures 
served several times as viziers. 

Abu' 1-Naim Badr al-Mustansirl f al-sayyid al-aiall amir 
al-juyush sayf al-Islam nasir al-imam l (466-488/1073- 

A complete biography of Badr is found in Chapter Three. 

20 Ibn al-Sayrafi, Al-Isharah , p. 54; Ibn Muyassar, 
Akhbar Mi$r , p. 22. 

21 Al-MaqrXzi, Itti 'az y II, 311. 

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REIGNS OF AL-MUSTA 'Ll BI ' LLAH (487-495/1094-1102) 

AND AL-AMIR BI-AHKAM ALLAH (495-524/1102-1130) 

Abu' 1-Qasim Shahinshah ibn al-savvid al-aiall amir al- 
iPyush Badr al-Mustansiri f al-savvid al-aiall al-afdal 
sayf al-imam jalal al-Isl5m sharaf al-anam nasir al-din 
khalil amir al-mu'minin l (487-515/1094-1121) ; known as 
Al-Afdal . 

He became vizier when his father became ill and for a 
year before his father died. Abu' 1-Qasim took the oath 
for al-Musta ' II, the youngest son of al-Mustansir , when 
the latter died in 487/1094) . There was resistance to 
the acclamation of al-Musta 'll as caliph because he was 
young and because Nizar, who was the eldest, was bypassed 
by his father. Moreover, history has it that Nizar left 
the palace and went to Alexandria, where al-Afdal 
followed him and was able to destroy him in battle and 
finally kill him. His death caused a split in the 
Isma'ill da 'wah, whereby many believed that Nizar was the 

9 O 

true imam. During al-Musta 'll' s caliphate, al-Afdal 
sent several expeditions to al-Sh5m and to the Holy Land 
by sea and by land to ward off the Crusaders. During his 
vizierate, al-Musta 'll died and al-Afdal found himself 
again in the position of taking the oath for al-Amir bi- 
Ahkam Allah in 495/1102. He kept going to war against 

22 Abu- 'Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Salamah al-Quda'i, 
£1.7 juz' al-awwal min kitab nuzhat al-albab , iami c al- 
tawarrkh wa' 1-adab, London, British Library, MS Add. 
23,285, fol 45v. 


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the Crusaders every year until he was killed by an 
unknown person in 515/1121. 

Abu- 'Abdallah ibn al-Aiall Nur al-Dawlah Abu-Shu~ia ' al- 
[ al-sayyid al-aiall al-ma'mun tai al-khilafah 'izz 
al-Islam fakhr al-anam nizlm al-drn l (515-522/1121-1128) ; 
known as al-Bata'ihl 

Historians of the era praise him extensively as a 
generous man who was very just and kind to the ra 'iyyah . 

A wise diplomat, he corrected the mistakes of some of his 
predecessors without much ado. 23 Thus he was loved and 
respected by friend and foe, so much so that the caliph 
al-Amir bestowed on him a vizierate without restrictions 
(wizarat tafwifl ) and prayers were said on his behalf in 
every pulpit, as if he were a caliph. The man was a 
lover of knowledge and surrounded himself with the 
learned men of his time, according to the sources. One 
of his greatest achievements was the census of Egypt. 

This census, Ibn Muyassar says, was "the first census 
taken and recorded in special lists which were called 
awraq al-tasqi ' . He created papers to travel inside and 
outside the country." 24 He also had an intricate system 
of espionage, using women as spies in order to learn 

23 Anonymous, Kitab iawahir al-buhur wa waqayi ' al- 
umur wa 'aiavib al-duhur wa akhbar al-diyar al-Misriyyah 
wa ma warad flha min al-avat al- 'azlmah wa' 1-ahadith al- 
sharlfah, Paris, Biblioth^que Nationale, MS arabe 1819, 
fol 57r . 

24 'Abdallah Mukhlis, editor's introduction to Ibn 
al-Sayrafl, Al-Isharah , p. 11. 

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about dissatisfied members of society and to try to 
correct the situation where necessity dictated it. 
Interestingly enough, al-Bata'ihi was the one who 
commissioned Ibn al-Sayrafl to write his history of the 
viziers, Al-Isharah ill man nala al-wizarah . . He 
remained in office until al-Amir decided to imprison him 
and his brothers and finally to crucify them all in 
522/1128. No-one seems to have known why he fell out of 
favor with al-Amir, although many chroniclers speculate 
on it. It perhaps was the love of the ra *ivvah and the 
powers that al-Bata'ihi enjoyed which made al-Amir decide 
to get rid of him. 

[Between 519-524/1125-1129, until the end of 
his reign, al-Amir did not appoint any viziers ] 

REIGN OF AL-HAFIZ LI-DIN ALLAH (524-544/1130-1149) 

XAri Ahmad ibn _al-Sayyid al-Aiall al-Affel Shahinshah 
Mir al- Juyush [ wazlr al-savf wa'1-aalam l (524-526/1129- 

The son and grandson of viziers, he was not of the same 
caliber as his father and grandfather. He enjoyed sports 
and the easy life and was killed on his way to play ball 
( _al-la x b bi' 1-kurrah ) . 

Abu' 1-Fath Yanis [ amir al-iuvush l (526/1131) 

In office for nine months, Abu' 1-Fath was a Christian 
slave of al-Afdal, and a strong personality who instilled 
fear in the army in order to keep it under control. Al- 
Hafiz became afraid of him and thus saw to it that he was 

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[Al-Hafiz remained without viziers from 526 
to 529/1131 to 1134, when he named his own son , Hasan, 

as vizier and also had him poisoned] 

Abu-Mu zaffar Bahram a 1 -Armani [ sayf al-Islam, tai al- 
muluk] (529-531/1134-1136) 

For a full biography of Bahram, see Chapter Three. 

Ej dwan ibn al-Walakhshl [ al-Afcjal l (531-533/1136-1138) 
Prior to his vizierate, he was governor of Askalon. He 
came to Cairo just when Bahram had been thrown out of the 
vizierate and he stepped into the position. Ibn al- 
Walakhshl was noted for his reorganization of the diwans 
and for employing Muslims instead of Christians in the 
bureaucracy. Christians fled after Ibn al-Walakhshi 
killed many of their number. Al-Hafiz softened the 
impact of these actions when he brought the ex-vizier, 
Bahram, and his relatives to live in the palace with him. 
Then, fearful of Ibn al-Walakhshi' s power, he instigated 
the army against him. Ibn al-Walakhshi had to flee for 
his life. 

[Al-Hafiz remained without viziers until he 

4 * 

was killed in 544/1149] 


Naim al-DTn Muhammad ibn Masai r al-sayyid al-aiall al- 
mufaddal amir al-iuvush l (544/1149) 

Najm al-Dln was a well-known amir who was quick to act on 
purging the army of elements which were bound on having a 
good time and pocketing their wages. His action prompted 

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Ibn al-Salar, governor of Alexandria, to take the 
vizierate by force from Ibn Masai and to kill him. 

JAli ibn al-Salar [ al-amlr al-muzaf far Abu' 1-Hasan l (544- 

Ibn al-Salar was a vizier for three and one-half years. 
During his vizierate, he organized a successful 
expedition against the Crusaders, who were defeated in 
Jaffa, Akka, Beirut, Sidon, and Tripoli. Had this 
campaign been a concerted effort with Nur al-Dln ZangT in 
Damascus, the Crusaders could well have lost all their 
holdings in the Holy Land. Ibn al-Salar lost his life 
and his vizierate to his nephew, 'Abbis, who with Usama 
ibn Munqidh (the famous memoir-writer of the period 
between the second and third crusades) had conspired 
against him. 

_\Abbas ibn Yahya ibn Badls (548-54 9/1153-1154) 

He served only a year as vizier. He had instigated his 
son to kill the caliph al-Hafiz because the latter was 
his son's lover. Thinking that he might survive such an 
act, Ibn Badis remained in office for a short while until 
he had to run for his life. 

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Tala ' i x ibn Razzlk r al-savvid al-aiall al-malik al-salih l 

His vizierate was a substitute for a caliphate. ^ His 

term in office was spent in wars against the Crusaders; 

and his court was said to be the meeting place for 

2 6 

learned men. He was a man who spent most of his time 
in office devising means to lessen the power of the army 
and the amirs in order that he might impose his will on 
both parties. 

REIGN OF AL-'ADID BI'LLAH (555-567/1160-1172) 

Razzlk ibn Tala' i x f al- *adil al-na^ir l (556-558/1160- 

He was a forgiving individual who exempted many persons 
from paying taxes owed and who lowered fees on court 
cases. He made a major effort to save the caliphate, but 
to no avail. 

Shawar ibn Muiir al-Sa *di [amir al-iuvush l (558, 559- 
564/1162, 1163-1168) 

His vizierate came at a time when the Fatimid caliphate 


had effectively ended, even though the caliph al- 'Adid 
was still ruling, in name, but without power. Shawar' s 
vizierate was spent contending with the amirs and those 

25 Abu-Muhammad 'Amarah al-Hakami (al-Yamani) , 

* % 

Kitab fih al-nukat al- x asriyyah f I akhbar al-wuzara' al- 
Misrivvah (Baghdad: al-Muthanna, 1962?), p. 34. 

26 Ibid., pp. 47-48. 


who had real power. He spent his second vizierate 
fighting the Crusaders, who had landed on the shores of 
Egypt; internally, he continued to fight with the amirs 
to consolidate his power. Unable to control either, he 
called on Asad al-Din Shirkuh to come and help him repel 
the wave of infidels. The latter did come to the rescue 
and was given the vizierate of Egypt as a reward in 

Dirgham ibn _*Amir ibn Suwar al-Lukhami [ shams al-khilafah 
abu'l-ashbal l (558-559/1162-1163) 

A Yemeni by birth, he became vizier by force when he and 
Shawar (see above) killed Razzlk ibn Tala'i'. He did not 
last for more than nine months as vizier. The Crusaders 
arrived in Egypt during his vizierate. Shawar, an army 
general, believed that his friend Dirgham could not ward 
off the attackers, so he took over and became vizier for 
the second time. 

Asad al-DXn Shirkuh (564/1168) 

He was vizier for two months when he called on Salah al- 

• • 

Dm, his nephew, to take over before he himself passed 
away. Shirkuh was called to Egypt, as mentioned above, 
to stop the Crusaders from taking over the country. 

Salah al-Din arrived in Egypt and became the vizier of 
al-'Adid until the latter's death in 567/1172. With the 
end of the Fatimid caliphate, Salah al-Din established 
his own dynasty. 

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Manuscripts . The following abbreviations are used: B.L. 

for the British Library (London); and B.N. for the 

Biblioth&que Nationale (Paris) . 

Abu Shamah, Shihab al-Dln 'Abd a 1 -Rahman ibn Isma'il. 

£. zhar al-raw datayn fl akhbar al-dawlatavn . B.L. , MS 
Or. 24,015. 

Ahmad ibn Sa'd al-Dln Ahmad al-Ghamri al-'Uthmani. 

Dhakhirat _al-i x lam bi-tawarlkh Misr f 1 ' 1-Islam min 
umara' wa hukkam wa gudat qada / iha fi' 1-ihkam min 
fathiha al-Islaml . B.L., MS Or. 6377; B.N., MS 
arabe 1850. 

Ahmad ibn Yusuf al-DimashqT al-Makki. Akhbar al-duwal wa 
Ithar al-uwal . B.N., MS arabe 4923. 

Anonymous. Al-Kawakib al-bahirah min al-nuium al- 
zahirah . Leiden: MS Or. 636. 

Anonymous . Kitab jawahir al-buhur wa waqayi ' al-umur wa 
'aja' yib al-duhur wa akhbar al-divar al-Migrivvah wa 
ma warad f iha min al-avat al- 'azlmah wa' 1-ahadith 
al-sharifah . B.N., MS arabe 1819. 

Anonymous . Kitab al-kawgkib al-bShirah al-mukhtasar min 
al-nuium al-zahirah . Leiden: MS Or. 374. 

Anonymous. Majmu x flh qissat al-Iskandar wa ma fiha min 
al-amr al- 'ailb wa qissat ahl al-kahf wa sirat 
al-Nabi wa tawarikh al-khulafa / wa ' 1-wuzara' wa' 1- 
muluk wa ' l-salatin wa hikavat wa ash 'ar wa fawa' id . 



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B.L., MS Or. 5928. 

Anonymous. Nuzhat al-libab iami * al-tawarlkh wa ' 1-adab . 
B.L., MS Add. 23,285. 

Anonymous. SIrat al-Hakim . Tubingen: MS 43. 

al-'Aynl, Mahmud. Tarlkh dawlat ban! ' 1- 'Abbas wa al- 
Tuluniwin wa" 1-Fat imi win , B.N., MS arabe 5761. 

al-Azharl, 'All NQr al-Dln. Al-Nuzhah al-sanivvah fT 

dh ikr al-khulafa' wa' 1-muluk al-Misrivvah . B.N., MS 

arabe 1815. 

al-Dhahabl, Shams al-Dln Abu 'Abd Allah Muhammad. Kitab 
al- 'ibar fl khabar man 'abar . B.N., MS arabe 5819. 

- Tadhkirat al-a' immah wa' 1-huffaz , aw Kitab 

tabagat al-mashavikh wa' 1-huffaz . B.N., MS arabe 


Ibn 'Abd Allah, 'Abd al-Rahman ibn Nasr. Al-Nahi al- 
suluk fl siyasat al-muluk . B.N., MS arabe 5954. 

Ibn Abi al-Surur, Shams al-Dln Muhammad. Al-Kawakib 
al-savirah fl akhbar Misr wa' 1-Oahirah . B.L., MS 
Or. 9973. 

Ibn 'Asakir, Abu'l-Qasim 'All ibn al-Hasan ibn Hibat 

Allah. Tarlkh Ibn 'Asakir . B.L., MSS Add. 23,351- 

Ibn Aybak, Salah al-Din ibn al-Safadl. Tuhfat dhawl'l- 
al fe ab _fi-man hakama bi-Dimashq min al-khulafa' wa' 1- 
my lgk wa'1-nuwwab . B.N., MS arabe 5827. 

Ibn Duqmaq, Ibrahim. Kitab al-jawahir al-thaminah fl 

s? ra t al-khulafa' wa' 1-salatin . B.N., MS arabe 


Ibn Fadl Allah al-'Umarl, Shihab al-Din Abu' 1- 'Abbas 

Ahmad ibn Yahya. Masalik al-absar fl mamalik al- 
amsar . B.L., MS Add. 24,348. 

Ibn Ha jar, Shihab al-Din Ahmad ibn 'All. Raf ' al-isr 'an 
Qudat Misr . B.N., MS arabe 5893; Cairo: al- 

Maktabah al-Malikiyyah, MS 2115. 

Ibn Ha jar, Abu' 1-Mahasin Jalal al-Din Yusuf. Al-Nujum 
al-zahirah bi-talkhis akhbar qudat Misr wa' 1- 
Qihirah . B.L., MS Add. 23,360. 

Ibn al-§abbagh, Nur al-Din 'All ibn Muhammad. Kitab 

fusul al-muhimmah fi ma 'rifat al-a' immah . B.N., MS 
arabe 5832. 

Ibn Taghribirdi, Jamal al-Din Abu' 1-Mahasin Yusuf. 

Hawadith al-duhur fi mada al-avvam wa al-shuhur . 

B.L., MS Add. 23, 294. 

Ibn Zahir. Al-Fada'il al-bahirah bi-mahasin Misr wa'l- 

• * ■ ■ -- ■ ■ ■ ■ 9 -I ■ 

Qahirah . B.L., MS Or. 1285. 

Ibn Zulaq 'All. Tarikh Misr wa fada' ili3ha . B.N., MS 
arabe 1817. 

Al-Ishaqi, Muhammad ibn al-Mu'ti. Latavif akhbar al- 
uwal fl-man tasarraf fi Misr min al-duwal . B.L., 

MSS Add. 23, 881 and Or. 567. 

Al-KutubX, Muhammad ibn Shakir. 'Uvun al-tawarikh . 

Istanbul: Topkapi Library, MS A-2922. 

Mar'i ibn Yusuf al-Hanbali. Kitab nuzhat al-nazirin fi 

0 - ■ ■ - ■■■ ■ ■ 1 ■ 4 “ 

tarikh man wulliva Misr min al-khulafa' wa al- 
salatin al- 'adilln . B.N., MS arabe 5920; and B.L., 

MS Add. 23,325. 

Al-Musabbihi, Muhammad ibn 'Ubayd Allah, f Tarikh al- 
Musabbihil . Madrid: Escorial, MS 2-543-2. One 

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section published: Al-juz 7 al-arba 'un min akhbar 
Mi$r li 7 1-MusabbihI . Ed. W. Milward. Cairo: 
Institut frangais d 7 archeologie orientale, 1978. 
Al-Quda'I, Abu 'Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Salamah. 

Mukhtasar fi al-tarikh . B.N., MS arabe 1490. 

• Kitab tarlkh al-Ouda 'I . B.N., MS arabe 


Al-juz 7 al-awwal min kitab nuzhat al-albab , 
jami x al-tawarlkh wa'l-adab . B.L., MS Add. 23,285. 
Al-Safadi, Abu 'Air al-Hasan ibn Abi Muhammad 'Umar. 

Nuzhat al-malik wa 7 1-mamluk f i mukhtasar si rat man 
wulliya min al-muluk . B.L., MSS Or. 6267, Add. 

Salih ibn Ahmad. Al-Wasivvah bi-rasul Allah . Leiden: MS 
Or. 7195. 

Al-Shirazi, Abu Ishaq Ibrahim ibn 'All ibn Yusuf al- 

Flruzl . Tabaqat al-fuqaha 7 . B.N., MS arabe 5896. 

Sibt ibn al-JawzI, Abu 7 1-Muzaf far Yusuf ibn Qizughli. 

Mir 7 at al-zaman . B.L., MS Add. 23,277 (A . H . 72- 
149); B.L., MSS Or. 4618, 4619 (A. H. 218-279; 282- 
460); Istanbul: Ahmet III, MS 2797 (fragment); B.N., 
MS arabe 5866; B.L., MS Or. 9258 (A. H. 480-513). 
Al-SuyutI, Jalal al-Dln 'Abd al-Rahman ibn Abi Bakr. 

Husn al-muhadarah fi akhbar Misr wa 7 1-Oahirah . 

B.L., MS Add. 23,332; B.N., MS arabe 5871. 

• T3rlkh al-khulafa 7 . B.L., MS Add. 7324. 

Al-Talmasani, Ahmad ibn Yahya, known as Ibn Abi Jumlah. 

Sakrdan mawlana al-sultan . B.L., MS Add 7319. 
Al-Yafi'I, 'All ibn Sulayman. Mir 7 at al-jinan . 

Istanbul: Topkapi Library, MS A-2970. 

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Printed Works . The following abbreviations are used for 
frequently-cited journals: BSOAS ( Bulletin of the School 
of Oriental and African Studies ) , IJMES ( International 
Journal of Middle East Studies ) , JAPS ( Journal of the 
American Oriental Society ) , JESHO ( Journal of the 
Economic and Social History of the Orient ) , JRAS ( Journal 
of the Royal Asiatic Society ) . 

Al- 'Abbadl, Ahmad Mukhtar 'Abd al-Fattah. FI al-tarlkh 
al- 'Abba si wa / 1-Fatimi . Beirut: Dar al-Nahdah al- 
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Abu' 1-Fida' , Isma'il ibn 'All (d. 732/1331). Mukhtasar 
tarikh al-bashar . 4 vols. Cairo: n.p., 1325/1907. 
Abu Sa 'Id, Hamid Ghunaym. Al- 'Alaqat al- 'arabivvah al- 
siyasiyyah ft 'ahd al-Buwavhivvln . Cairo: Maktabat 
al-Shabab, 1971. 

Abu Salil> al-Armanl . The Churches and Monasteries of 

Egypt . Akhbar min nawahi Misr wa agta 'iha . Ed. and 
trans. B.T.A. Evetts. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 


Abu al-Salt, Umayyah ibn 'Abd al-'Aziz. Dlwan al-HIkim . 
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. Al-Risalah al-Misriyyah . Ed. 'Abd al-Salam 

Harun. Cairo: n.p., 1951. 

Abu Shamah, 'Abd a 1 -Rahman ibn Isma'il al-MaqdisT (d. 
665/1268) . Kitab al-raw<jatayn f T akhbar al- 
dawlatavn . Ed. M. Hilmy and M. Alimad. Cairo: n.p., 

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Allouche, Adel. "The Establishment of Four Chief 

Judgeships in Fatimid Egypt." JAOS , 105 (1985): 

Amedroz, H.F. "The Hisba Jurisdiction in the Ahkam 

Sult^aniwah of al-Mawardi." JRAS (Jan. 1916): 77- 
101; (April 1916): 287-314. 

. "The Mazalim Jurisdiction in the Ahkam 

Sultaniyyah of al-Mawardl." JRAS (July 1911): 635- 

Ankori, Zvi . Karaites in Byzantium : the Formative Years , 
970- 1100 . New York: A.M.S. Press, 1968. 

Anonymous. Nubadh min akhbar al-Barbar . Ed. E. L4»vi- 
Provengal . Rabat: n.p., 1934. 

Al-AntakI, Abu' 1-Fara j Yahya ibn Sa'Id (d. after 

458/1066) . Tarlkh Yahya ibn Sa 'id al-Antakl . Ed. 

L. Cheikho, B. Carra de Vaux, and H. Zayyat . Beirut 
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Al-A'zamT, Muhammad Hasan. Al-Haqa' iq al-khafivvah x an 
al-Shl *ah al-Fatimivvah wa' 1-Ithna ^Asharivvah . 
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. x Abqarivvat al-Fa^imivvin . Beirut: D5r 

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Al-'Azimi, Muhammad ibn 'All al-Halabi (d. after 

556/1161). "Tarlkh al-'AzimT." Partial edition by 
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Bacharach, Jere L. "African Military Slaves in the 

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Al-BaghdadT, 'Abd al-Latlf Muwaffaq al-Din 'Abd al-Latlf. 

Universitiits- und Landesbibliothck 


Al-Ifadah wa' 1-i 'tibar f I' 1-umur al-mushahadah wa ' 1 - 
hawadith al-mu 'aniyah bi-ard Misr . Ed. and trans. 

S. De Sacy. Paris: n.p., 1810. 

. Mukhta^ar Tarlkh Misr . Ed. J. White. 

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Al-BaghdadI, 'Abd al-Qahir ibn Tahir (d. 429/1038) . Al- 
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Al-BakrI, Abu 'Ubayd 'Ubayd Allah ibn 'Abd al-'AzIz (d. 

487/1094) . Al-Muqhrib fi dhikr bilad Ifriqivah 

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Al-Baladhurl, Ahmad ibn 'All ibn Jabir. Futuh al-buldan . 

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Bar Hebraeus, Gregory Abu'l-Faraj (d. 1286). Tarlkh 

mukhtasar al-duwal . Ed. Salhani . Beirut: Catholic 
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Press, 1959. 

Baraniq, Muhammad Ahmad. Al-Wuzara' al- 'Abbasivvun . 

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_. "A Ministry of Propaganda under the 

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Al-Barrawl, Rashid. Halat Misr al-iqtisadivvah fi 'ahd 
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• "Une crise frumentaire dans l'figypte 

fatimide." JESHQ , 23 (1979): 67-101. 

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fatimide , 359-468 H./969-1076. 2 vols. Damascus: 

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Blach&re, Regis. "La fondation du Caire et la 

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Abu al-Tahir 38 

Abbasids 6, 8, 37, 38, 46, 69 
77, 120, 121, 122, 124, 126, 
128, 129, 131, 133, 134, 138, 
147, 149, 150, 151, 152, 156, 
157, 159, 161 

Abu Hayyan al-Tawhldl 87 

Al-Afdal 73 

Ahmad ibn‘AlI al-Ikhshldl 7 

Al-Ahram 23 

ainad 112-113 

Aleppo 6, 110 

- Alexandria 17, 44, 109 

'amil 21 

Al-Amir 44, 73 

amir al-mu' minln 92 

amlr / a Van , shavkhs 44, 71, 
112, 114, 115, 116, 143 

arbab al-aqlam 19, 87 

Armenians 70, 97, 110, 111, 
112, 115, 116, 117 

Ashmonln 85 

Askalon 44 

'askar 34 

a 'van (see amTr / a 'van ) 


Al- 'Aziz 38, 85-87, 89, 90, 
92-95, 106, 107 

Baghdad 6, 8, 37, 82, 106 

Badr al-Jamall 74, 80, 96-109 

Bahram al-Armanl 80, 109-119 

Barmakids 131, 132, 150 

bavt al-mal 19, 85, 86, 124 

Bilad al-Sham 6, 105 

Buyids 6, 85, 150 

Byzantines, Byzantium 6, 93, 
126, 149 








37, 40, 






105, 117 

, 147 








da 'Is 






da 'I al-du 'at 38 
dalll 22 
Damascus 6, 98 
Damietta 85 
Dar al-darb 43, 44 
Dar al-Islam 118, 138 
Dar al-khilafah 62 
dar wikalah 45 

Universiliils- und Landesbibliothek 


Dar al-wizarah 117 

_da 'wah iii, v, 3, 46-61, 118 # 
158, 159, 161 

dawlah 136 

dhimmah , dhimmis 22, 41, 43, 

dlwans iv, 11, 16, 17, 19-37, 
91, 93, 94, 120, 124-129, 141, 
142, 144, 145, 147, 156, 167, 

diwan al-ahbas 20, 23, 29, 34, 

diwan al- 'ama ' ir 33 

diwan asfal al-ar (j 28 

diwan al-barld 23, 24 

diwan al-diva * 123 

diwan al-Hiiaz 27 

diwan al-insha' 23 

diwan al-iqta * 25, 26 

diwan al-javsh 18, 20, 23, 25 

diwan al-iihad 29, 33 

diwan al-kiswah 20, 23, 25, 26 

diwan al-kharai 29, 32, 121, 

diwan al-kura / 18, 32, 33 
diwan al-maialis 29, 35, 36 
diwan al-mukus 32 

Universitiits- und Landesbibliothck 

diwan al-mawarith 29, 84 , 125 

diwan al-rabba ^ 32 

diwan al-rawatib 18, 20, 23, 


diwan al-Sa 'Id 28 
diwan al-Sham 27, 123 
diwan al-shurt^ah 29, 34 
dlwgn al-sina ^ah 32 
diwan al-tahglq 36 
diwan al-thuqhur 28 
diwan al-tiraz 20, 25, 26 
Druze 71 

Egypt 1, 2, 4-10, 12, 17, 30, 
31, 33, 38, 39, 42, 55, 56, 

60, 82, 84, 87, 88, 90, 102- 
108, 111, 115, 116, 154, 158 

Fadl 90 

Fustat 12, 34 
• % 

Ghalbun 7 
Ghaznavids 135 
Ghuzz 25 

Al-Hafi? 110, 112, 113, 116- 
118 ‘ 

haii 27 

Al-Hakim 57, 59, 76 

Hamdanids 93 
5 harat 13, 14 

Harun al-Rashrd 131 
Al-Hasan ibn Tanj 7 
hashir 22 
hawalah 85 
haviz 22 
hisbah 84 
huiiab 96 

Ibn al-Furat, Ja'far 8, 83, 

Ibn Killis , Ya'qub 1, 2, 3, 4 
11, 15, 16, 26, 27, 57, 79, 
80-97, 106, 107, 109 

Ibn Mlmlti 20 

Ibn Taywir 22 

'ibrah 155 

Ikhwan al-Safa' 58 


Ikhshidis 4, 6, 7, 8, 10, 15, 
20, 23, 55, 82, 83 

imamate 47-55 

iqta ' 32, 142-146, 153-155 

Isma 'TIT v, 10, 11, 12, 13, 
15, 37, 55-56, 58, 71, 75, 79 
87, 88, 94, 118, 159, 160 

istimarat daftar al-mailis 35 


iahbad 21 
Hawaii 43 

Jawhar al-Siqilll 1, 2, 3, 4, 
9, 10, 12, *13, 14, 15, 34, 38, 
55, 56 

Jerusalem 105 
jihad 116 

Kafur al-Ikhshidi 5, 6, 7, 82 

katib, kuttab 9, 17, 18, 19, 
21, 71, 96, 127, 133, 157 

katib al-kuttab 29 

kharai 13, 30, 31, 32, 43, 84, 
85, 89, 130 

khazin 22 

khufcbah 105 

kira' 156 

Al-KirmanT 47-55, 59, 69, 80, 
91, 94, 95, 103, 108, 117, 118 

Kurds 25, 70 

madhhabs 39, 160 

madrasahs 41, 138-142, 145, 


Maghrib 9, 12, 83 

Maghribis 12, 14, 16, 25, 70, 

Al-Mahdr 1 

ma rial is 127-128 

Universitats- und Landesbibliothek 


majalis al-hukum 40 
ma'mur 67 
Marj 'Adra 6 
masih 21 

Al-Mawardi 61-68 
Mecca 5, 105 
muhtasib 40, 41, 42 
mu 'In 21 
munadis 14 
munkarat 41 

Al-Mu'izz 2, 3, 4, 7, 9, 12, 
84, 86, 95 

Mu'izz al-Dawlah ibn Buwayh 
al-Daylami 85 

mushrif 21 

Al-Mustan$ir 28, 45, 55, 76, 
77, 101, 103, 106, 107, 149 

mustawfi 21 

mutawallT al-cfiwan 21 

na ; ib 21, 44 

nasikh 21 

nazir 20 

Nizam al-Mulk 135-141 
Nizamiyyah schools 139, 158 
nuhas 44 

Orthodox Christians 9 
Ottomans 3 
Persians 71 
qabalah 151 

aid! 19, 37, 39, 71, 87, 96, 
104, 141, 147, 159 

qadT' l-qu<jat 37, 38, 39, 43, 
56, 108, 114 

Al-Qadi Nu 'man 58, 59 

Qalqashandl 22 

Qaramitah 5, 7 

Qaws 17, 43 

Qayrawan 1 

ra' Is al-dTwan , ra'is al- 
dawawln 22, 35, 71, 86 

ra' is al-ru' asa' 22 

ra 'iyyah 16, 63, 64, 66, 67, 
68, 69, 77, 79, 96, 104, 109, 
114, 133, 134, 147, 151 

rawk 152 

Rum 71 

Rum I 148 

sahib al-shur^ah 35, 40, 41, 

al-ga 'Id 101 
Samanids 135 

Sayf al-Dawlah Hamdani 6 

Universitats- und Landesbibliothek 


sawids 72, 136 

'ummal 63 

Seljuks 120, 124, 135, 138, 

139, 140, 144, 146, 147, 150, 

'ushr land 123 

156, 157, 159 

wall 17, 42, 126 

shahid 21 

waafs 39 

Shari 'ah 40, 120, 136, 138 

wazir 46 

Shi 'i 34, 60 

wazir al-savf 113 

Shi'i law 34, 84 

wazir tafwid 39, 62, 65, 66. 
67, 76, 77, 78, 87, 92, 95, 

Sudan 5 

106, 113, 117 

Sudanese ( 'abld) 25. 97. 100 r 

wazir tanfldh 62. 63. 67. 68. 

113, 117 


sultan 137 


wizarat al-savf wa'l-aalam 63 

Sunnis 57 

Al-Yazurl 45 

Sunni laws 37 

Yemen 60 

Syria 2, 4, 6, 7, 17, 45, 60, 

82, 107, 148 

zaklt 43. 134 

tarraz 92 
Tell Bashir 110 
Tinnis 85 

Turks 25, 97, 101, 117, 137, 

Tyre 44 

-ulama' 134, 136, 138-142, 158 

Umm al-Mustansir 99 

Umayyads 120, 121, 122 

ummah iii, 75, 120, 121, 134, 
137, 148 

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If • 

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